In the past decade, observers in Western countries have been increasingly challenged to describe China s rising power in one of two ways: as contributing to established world systems, or as a growing threat fulfilling certain predictions made at the end of the Cold War. For some, perceptions of increasingly assertive regional behaviors confirm that China's self-proclaimed policy of pacifism is being used to cloak selfish national interest and power goals. The current international relations (IR) literature tends to treat China s assertiveness as evidence that it is indeed a threat, with few attempts to conceptualize assertiveness as a relational strategy. In this paper, the author uses eight current and historical cases involving four relational strategies engagement, boycotting, reciprocation, and pressing - to examine conventional assessments of assertiveness that focus solely on perceptions of and responses to threatening statements and behaviors made in defense of Chinese national interests. In the end, this paper tries to contribute to the general IR literature that has tended to misinterpret China's assertiveness, which is actually an identity issue regarding bilateral relationality instead of power or interest calculations.