In this article I examine the changes in China’s foreign policy thinking and how they have influenced China’s international behavior. I reveal how the leadership’s beliefs guided and drove the Chinese state’s behavior. When leaders believed that the world was in a "war and revolution" age, China was inclined to overlook the actual international order and institutions and backed revolutionary movements or armed struggles in other countries. The cognitive shift to "peace and development" in the 1980s, which was consolidated in the 1990s through two major debates, was fundamental in terms of strategically reshaping China’s behavior, turning it from a revolutionary state into a quasi-status quo state. Besides embracing international institutions, China has also joined neighboring countries in creating new regional institutions and norms in East Asia. I argue that ideas, and not only perceptions, guide China’s policymaking and international behavior.