A ‘world view’ perspective is deployed to show President Xi Jinping’s dominance of China’s policy-making environment and the ideas that he and his leadership group have tried to promote. We use this framework to explain China’s relations with three major countries that are crucial to manage successfully in order for China to consolidate its global and regional ambitions – Japan, Russia and the United States. The article shows how the degree of alignment between China’s and these great powers’ world views influences their levels of resistance or acceptance of the policies that flow from Beijing’s world view. We find that, while the United States and Russia lie at opposing ends of the resistance-acceptance spectrum, Japan represents an important middle ground along it. This finding encourages movement away from the overly simplistic dyadic depictions of global politics associated with ‘new Cold War’ or ‘authoritarian versus liberal’ labelling.