Mikhail Gorbachev may never match Mickey Mouse in the popular affection of Chinese, but his summit visit could spark an outbreak of "Gorbymania."

More than a century of suspicion, interrupted by a decade of friendship after the 1949 communist take-over of China makes it unlikely any Russian could become China's favorite foreigner.But among many Chinese, Gorbachev has already become the most popular Soviet leader for many years - certainly the best-liked since Stalin, whose portrait is still occasionally displayed in Peking's Tienanmen Square on ceremonial days.

If Shanghai's uninhibited taxi-drivers are to be believed, Gorbachev, who holds an historic Sino-Soviet summit meeting in May, could even reconvert a few capitalist-minded Chinese to the communist cause. "Gorbachev is the greatest leader in the world today. He is like another Lenin," said one enthusiastic cabbie.