Even if the Chinese economy overtakes the United States as the world's largest in the next 10 years, there will still be an obvious gap between their comprehensive powers and the quality of their economies.
So at least for the next two decades, China's strategy should be to play the role of the world's No 2 power.
To do so, China should maintain its win-win co-operation with the US even while defending its own interests.
It should properly handle its relations with other countries, too, making them accept its leadership in some fields without creating misgivings about its rise.
From regarding itself as the "Middle Kingdom", the centre of the world, China slid down the economic and geopolitical ladder and came to be seen by the international community as a "rebel". Which means China does not have the experience of playing the role of No 2.
To build the learning curve, therefore, it needs a clear strategic goal in line with its real position.
In this regard, China should guard against expansionist moves that come with economic success, for expansionism has extracted an exorbitant cost from rising powers.
The "Belt and Road Initiative", aimed at promoting common development and regional integrity, is one of China's most important policies.
And through the initiative, China wants to export the economic energy it has accumulated over the past three decades.
The initiative should have a clear strategic focus, and China's decision-makers have to soberly recognise the country's power and position, and fix its strategic goals rationally.
If they overrate its national power, especially in comparison to the United States, they will create big problems for the country.
But even while playing the role of No 2, it should be open to learning from the rest of the world how to respond to global challenges that cannot be met by the US alone, or by following the US model.
China has been a victim of imperialism, colonialism and hegemony in the past.
So as a rising power, it should not act like the present and past big powers, because its rise is not only the rise of a power, but also the rise of a civilisation.
The US replaced the United Kingdom as the world leader in the early 20th century, and it helped build a stable world order after World War II by putting forward a series of more pragmatic and attractive global principles in international relations compared to those propounded by the UK.
China should understand that the competition among big powers in the 21st century in the backdrop of globalisation is a competition both of hard power and soft power.
So it should help develop fairer and more just international rules to ensure that its rise ushers in a more civilised and just world order.
It should take measures to protect its national and strategic interests, because the unending conflicts within the US have affected its foreign policies.
Way back in 2010, the US pledged to reform the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. But because of the overpowering effect of its domestic politics, the US has not fulfilled that promise.
Instead, it has obstructed important reforms in the global financial agencies. This is one of the reasons why China was prompted to establish the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
China should exercise strategic patience and have a broader strategic foresight without being tempted to make quick gains.
It should also pay more attention to serving the world, rather than following a rigid principle of "national interests top all".
Today, countries across the world are more interdependent than ever.
As a big country, China needs to think more about promoting common development across the world and fulfil its responsibilities of helping solve major global problems such as climate change.
And it should adopt a more forgiving attitude toward other countries and listen to different voices from across the world.
The author is a senior researcher in international relations at Renmin University of China, Beijing.