There is intense speculation that Xi Jinping's recent move to become "Core Leader," a title awarded posthumously to Mao, hints that he might stay beyond 10 years and might pull a Gorbachev on China. Fundamental political reform is the only way out for the straitjacket China finds itself in. A total attempt to keep the lid tight would only lead to some kind of an implosion, sooner or later. Reform would be the patriotic thing to do. China, after all, has become the largest economy in the world. Reform would be the responsible thing to do.
But the Gorbachev metaphor might not be a good one. Gorbachev hastened democratic reforms and that is to his great credit. He got called Person Of The Century by some for that. Thankfully the Cold War was over. But he neither thought through the demise of communism nor its replacement. But it is perhaps too much to ask one person to do all three things.
While Gorbachev presided over a bread lines economy, the Chinese economy is an envy to the world (minus the Beijing smog). Xi does not have to say it is not working. But he does have to say this is what is next. It can be bold reforms that are well thought out and there is a smooth transition. He has played it wise. He has concentrated tremendous power in himself. That is a lot of political capital with which to carry out reforms.
Step one would be to completely halt any and all persecution of the Falun Gong and release all the detained practitioners. Step two would be to institute free speech and freedom of religion into the Chinese constitution. Step three would be for the party to offer two candidates for each office like president, governor and mayor. The people pick one through direct vote. That could go for 10 years. Then the constitution should be ammended to allow other political parties. But China should take care to keep money out of politics. All parties should be state funded, getting money in direct proportion to votes they collect. That is something American progressives only fantasize about.