That might be a stark view, but many China experts agree the new leadership will need to be bold in reform if they want to keep their iron grip on a fast changing country.
Thanks to the party's success in overseeing rapid economic growth and lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty, Xi, Li and their deputies face a more demanding population.
Ordinary Chinese have plenty to be upset about. Over 40 percent of the country's rivers are severely polluted, by many estimates; China ranks near the bottom of some corruption indexes; and around 150 million migrant workers are denied welfare benefits in the cities in which they work because they have no residency rights there.
Those statistics illustrate one of the challenges of China's rise. While growth has boosted incomes, the increased prosperity has led many people to be less willing to put up with the side-effects, and with what some see as a paternalistic approach by the leadership.
"Chinese people are really treated like children. You might listen to them a little bit but ultimately daddy knows best, what's in your interests, and I don't think that can hold much longer," said Tony Saich, professor at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
China is more prosperous than a decade ago when Hu and Wen took charge, but the pursuit of prosperity has dramatically widened the gap between rich and poor, to the fury of many average citizens.
The United Nations says 13 percent of China's 1.3 billion people still live on less than $1.25 a day. But the country also has 2.7 million U.S. dollar millionaires and 251 billionaires, according to the Hurun Report, a Shanghai-based luxury publishing house which compiles China's Rich List.