When China's economy officially surpassed Japan's this month to become the world's second-largest, it signalled a long-anticipated shift in the global balance of trade and financial might.
But China's rising status as a superpower has also fed an increasingly tense conflict with the rest of the world and shone an uncomfortable spotlight on the country's regressive economic and social policies.
The country will eventually have to capitulate and compromise on a range of long-standing policies if it wants to avoid a harsh reaction from trading partners that helped it grow by importing its cheap products and labour.
Chief among those, perhaps, is its policy of keeping its currency, the yuan, weak against the dollar. Other policies designed to protect its domestic industries and restrict its citizens' participation in the global economy are also under fire.
Being part of a global community means abiding by global rules and opening up to global competition, a price of power China is only grudgingly beginning to pay.
Already the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is asking China to open up its film industry to more foreign competition - just one small example of how pressure is growing for the country's conservative leaders to lift restrictions on trade.
China allows only 20 foreign films to air there every year, with revenues shared between the movie studios and distributors in China. A further 40 films can be released on a flat-fee basis. Next month that is expected to change after the WTO's decision that such a policy breaches international rules.
But by far the most rancorous debate to spring from China's rise involves the yuan. It has long kept its currency weak against the dollar to favour its exporters.
When a dollar buys more yuan, foreigners with dollars to spend can buy Chinese products more cheaply. But that also disadvantages other countries' exports by making them less competitive compared with China's. That state of affairs does not sit well with the US and Europe, where China's currency policies are regarded as creating imbalances in trade and damaging the West's efforts to recover from the global economic crisis, partly through a rise in exports. And it is hard to argue that China's control of its currency is anything but unfair.
But China's leaders are clinging to that policy, perhaps out of hope that they can milk the economic edge it gives them right up until the political strain it comes with becomes unbearable.
The US has been harping on about the issue for years but China has rarely given ground, agreeing only occasionally to let the yuan strengthen a little to soften an ever-louder chorus of discontent.
Ultimately, China will give in. If the country wants to be seen as an equal on the global bargaining table of organisations such as the WTO and the Group of 20 (G20) leading and emerging economies, it has to commit to a level playing field for all. The bigger its economy grows, the more it has to lose in angering the countries on which it depends for its economic future.
In G20 meetings in Paris at the weekend, finance ministers and central bank officials put renewed pressure on China to agree to a list of indicators of global imbalances that included foreign exchange rates and currency reserves.
The G20 is drafting the list to single out policies that have skewed the global economy as it seeks to rebalance after the financial crisis. The currency indicators were ultimately scrapped at the Paris meeting, and the final list included only government and private debt levels, budget deficits and trade imbalances, as well as balance of payments indicators.
The exclusion of currencies was a victory for China, albeit a fleeting one. With the health of global trade and a recovery from the global downturn hanging in the balance, China won't be able to both shelter its domestic economy and exploit the global one for much longer.
It, of course, is not alone in being singled out for contributing to imbalances. Other countries with large trade surpluses, big foreign currency reserves and pegs to the dollar - including many in the Gulf - could eventually be called to account for what G20 officials deem are imbalance-inducing policies.
What form that takes remains to be seen, but the pressure China is facing serves as a warning for all other fast-growing countries that protectionism and currency controls are not likely to be as blithely tolerated by the developed world as they were during the boom.