The financial and economic crisis of 2008 has highlighted the changing landscape of international relations and the enormous pressure on the People's Republic of China to redefine its international position. Based on two case studies, China's Africa policy and its response to the global financial and economic crisis, we argue that China's foreign policies are currently characterized by an adaptation of its historical role conception as a "leading developing country" to that of a "responsible caretaker" in international, especially economic affairs. In its own perceptions - developed in constant exchange with external perceptions of China - as well as in its actions, the PRC finds itself drawn faster and further into a complex web of global governance than anticipated by its policy elites. Acknowledging the benefits of a stronger involvement, the PRC steps up its engagement with regional, multilateral and global orders and is actively pursuing their recalibration. Contradictions within the Chinese leadership, conflicting themes in public discourse and incoherent actions highlight the difficulties even for a technocratic one-party elite with a limited - albeit real and important - need to assure domestic support and legitimacy to define the global role of an "emerging great power".