This article contextualizes and clarifies the political and security components of China's contemporary strategic engagement with developing countries. Over the last decade, China has adopted a more self-confident and assertive foreign policy, under which political and military elements have become more prominent. This approach places renewed emphasis on China's position in and leadership of the developing world. China's leaders look to coordinate policy with "newly emerging powers" to support and foster what they identify as the trend towards a more "multipolar" world order, that is, soft balancing against American "hegemonism." Moreover, Beijing seeks to curry favor with and raise the voices of developing countries in international institutions to build a normative constituency against American unilateralism. As part of this effort to "democratize" international relations, Beijing has also underwritten a constellation of China-dominated regional institutions that harmonize its policies and provide venues to build strategic relationships with developing countries.