Contrary to many earlier expectations, China’s influence over the security and alignment policies of its East Asian neighbors has weakened in recent years. Regular outbursts, rigid and vitriolic official statements, high-handed and capricious policy measures, and a belligerent and insular domestic foreign policy discourse feed into misgivings that China’s rise will be less peaceful than advertised. Other states in the region are thus presented with compelling reasons to keep Beijing at a distance and strengthen the US military presence. In this article, I use “status theory” to advance a new explanation of China’s failed attempts at reassurance, and hence its limited influence in the East Asian security system. I revise previous research on China’s status seeking to argue that China primarily pursues higher status by emulating US great power behavior in search for recognition as an equal by the United States. The United States has staunchly refused to recognize China’s status claims, however, and China’s unsuccessful attempts to pass as a first-tier great power reduce trust, raise threat perceptions, deepen territorial disputes, and thus inhibit China’s ability to reassure its neighbors. Put simply, China’s ardent desire to become a highest-ranking great power prevents it from reaching this objective.