Since the ’90s, China’s economic power has grown massively, and with it the authorities’ desire to control and craft its global image. Yet, despite policed Internet and surveillance of its citizens, contestation of the authorities’ control has come from social, ecological and cultural activists. Since the start of the century, China has staged the Olympics, had a Chinese woman win the Miss World competition, and claims to wage a ‘war on terror’. A spectacle of a peaceful, harmonious and ‘normal’ country – a ‘China dream’ – is projected. This article seeks to apprehend the reality behind the dream and to show how China's current condition is the result of a historical domination by, but also voluntary engagement with, the ‘West’.