‘So solidly built into our consciousness is the concept that China is conducting a rapacious and belligerent foreign policy, that whenever a dispute arises in which China is involved, she is instantly assumed to have provoked it.’
— Felix Greene, 1965.
When a bully nation (also known as a superpower) is engaging in full hegemonic display, another country with increasing clout and international status can raise apprehension. When countries are used to a bigger country settled for some years in a bullying position, someone starting to come close to that level of power raises various concerns.
This rise is often wrongly construed as a zero-sum game: the newcomer challenging the bully's position. In such a case, the existing bully, in its efforts to manipulate popular conceptions about the unknown newcomer, will (hypocritically) spread the myth that the newcomer is, and always has been, overtly aggressive. This myth-making, with the existing bully's greater hold on communication channels (media, international organizations, UN etc.) can negate the effect that the newcomer might have in balancing the bully's hegemony. The newcomer's assurances about its peaceful rise will then be dismissed as deception.
The focal point of the bully's containment policy will be to encourage and manipulate various types of pawns against the newcomer. If such pawns already exist, then they will be fostered and strengthened, and in case they don't, new ones will be created. As Stephen Walt terms it, "a competition for allies" will then commence.