The Chinese have several advantages over the west when it comes to geo-political contests/stresses/conflicts.
1) They are a tad more homogeneous - meaning racial/ethic issues consume a smaller percentage of their efforts... Right or wrong, the Chinese insist that ALL their people ALL buy into the prevailing cultural mores. They have no illusions, multi-culturalism does not a strong nation state make. If you are going to live in China, don't expect to demand bi-lingual schools, or religious courts just for your group. And don't even think you will force your religious laws on everyone else if you just agitate enough ... The Chinese government has a simple understanding about living in China. If you emigrate there, you become Chinese, you are expected to (and 'encouraged') to embrace core Chinese values. Immigrate there, and you are expected to become Chinese, not remain whatever you were before you arrive.
Many western European nations are being strangled politically / socially because they have significant immigrated populations now living there who have no (little) interest in embracing the core values of western civilization. Sadly, (for purposes of having a strong nation state) many of these immigrant communities actually despise Core Western values. No unity, more energy spent on in-fighting, etc.
2) Sheer volume, 1/5 humans on the planet are Chinese...consider, that in one year China graduates more engineering students than exist in the entire USA. Eventually, this will, by sheer numbers of engineers (or whatever/sales/marketing/etc) earn them a masterful advantage.
3) The west (or usa) operates very short term. Corporations, (the entities through which the ultra rich and powerful upper crust of the USA, operate, and control society) generally make decisions based on short term considerations: what ever move will increase this years stock dividend is what gets done. Humans (employees) are now peasants to be thrown away for very small causes.
4) The USA, in some ways, doesn't seem very concerned about leaving our secret technology in places where it is easily accessed. The Chinese just flew their first stealth plane. Where did the tech come from, since they are (supposedly) several generations behind in aviation tech? From a downed US stealth plane, in the former Yugoslavia area. Chinese 'procurers' merely went and scavenged the parts from that plane. Why didn't the US go pick up the sensitive parts of the wreckage? USA? There is no "I" in US, it wasn't my job... lol.
5) Unlike the West, the Chinese have a long view, and long term plans to implement their societal goals. They can plot a course, and implement it, no matter what. Western democracies, with ever changing government figures tend to view things in the short term... getting re-elected.
Now, please do not misunderstand me. I am a daughter of the West, and I embrace the core values of Western Civilization, liberalism, individualism, etc. I also recognize that the genius of western values that i embrace has both pluses and minuses when it comes to making a strong nation. And right now, those values, when playing out in the geo-political world stage are weakening western nations while a more unified giant, (uber-panda China) is taking center stage.
And they are clever enough to continue to present themselves as a non-threatening, cuddly panda...
But make no mistake, self-interest seems to be a universal human motivation. And they will do what is best for themselves, no matter the cost to others. We do, too.