This article seeks answers to two related questions in the context of China’s rise as a great power. Has the Chinese leadership abandoned Deng’s low-profile diplomacy and reoriented Chinese foreign policy towards a more assertive or even aggressive direction, supported by its new quotient of wealth and power? Is China ready to take a global leadership role and assume international responsibility as a great power? Focusing on China’s foreign policy after the beginning of the global downturn in 2008, this article finds that China has indeed become increasingly assertive in its defence of so-called ‘core’ national interests, reacting stridently to all perceived slights against its national pride and sovereignty. While China has built its national strength to effectively defend its state sovereignty and wield significant global influence, it is still preoccupied by its immediate interests concerning daunting internal and external challenges to its regime survival, economic development and territorial integrity. Beijing’s assertiveness in defending its core interests, therefore, is not accompanied by a broad vision as a rising global power, making China often reluctant to shoulder greater international responsibilities. In its search for its rightful place, China is still reluctant to meet expectations for it to play the leadership role of a great power.