The spectre of isolationism has haunted China at times during its long history, with well-documented cases being the Ming and Qing dynasties, as well as the first 30 years of the PRC under the helm of Mao Zedong. While the following 3 decades of China‘s economic reform (改革开放) marked an unprecedented process of opening up to the world (与国际接轨), the covid-19 pandemic has shown to accelerate certain tendencies of de-globalisation that steadily built up over the previous decade in the aftermath of the financial crisis 2008. Against that background, this contribution is going to discuss the concepts of isolationism (孤立主义) and economic autarchy (自力更生), which rose to renewed prominence over the course of the pandemic. Amidst changing international and domestic environments, China recently turned to stress the importance of technological self-reliance over further opening-up of its economy to the world. A latest example of this line of thought was China‘s announcement of its new dual circulation theory (双循环经济理论), which divides the economy into a largely self-sustained domestic cycle and a foreign economic cycle of secondary importance. This conceptualization is also expected to be of key relevance for China’s 14th Five-year plan from the beginning of the year 2021 onwards. With this in mind, this work tries to trace the ideological ferment and root causes for the current revival of isolationist thought in China, which actively shapes both rhetoric and policies about de-coupling, trade protectionism and China’s economic nationalism in general. This paper also asks the question as to what sort of dialectical approach would allow the international community to successfully engage China to help it dissolve some of its uneasiness about closer international ties, and help contribute to a renewed period of Chinese opening-up and engagement with the world.