Since the early 2000s, China has become increasingly active in conflict management and postconflict reconstruction – especially in South-East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, and, more recently, along the route of the Belt and Road Initiative. Its engagement in postconflict settings ranges from preventive diplomacy, conflict mediation, and development assistance to business-oriented economic construction. A rough consensus has formed that a peacebuilding paradigm "with Chinese characteristics", termed "developmental peace" by Chinese scholars, is in the making and is gaining influence over war-torn societies. While there is an emerging body of theoretical and empirical literature to identify, describe, and analyze the substances, mechanisms, and implications of Chinese developmental peace, little attention has been paid to its historical origins and philosophical basis. This article posits that it is through selective reinforcement of certain historical memories and elaborate interpretation of national experience of development (or decay) that China's contemporary narrative and practices around peace and security emerge, persist, and evolve. In order to further understanding of China's norms and practices in the areas of conflict management and peacebuilding, this article offers a critical historical review of China's encounter with the international system.