Via a NY Times article on the US-China financial relationship:
Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese leader who ushered in its market reforms starting in the late 1970s, famously gave his country the following advice: “Observe calmly; secure our position; cope with affairs calmly; hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile; and never claim leadership.”
This seems to be the general trend in Chinese foreign policy; if the Chinese leadership decide this is no longer necessary or desirable, we could suddenly live in a very different world.
I think a particularly interesting and volatile element to this is that the Chinese Government has a relatively solid hold on power, but this hold is largely tied to the year-over-year economic growth China has been experiencing for decades. The Chinese are content to tolerate their government because life is getting better, and looks to get better still. Should this growth dry up, there’s no telling what may happen domestically, or what nationalistic conflicts the Chinese Government may enter into as a ploy to unify their people.