The material transformation of the Chinese economy is forcing a concomitant process of political adjustment—and not just in China. Other states are being forced to accommodate the ‘rise of China’. In this context, this article first presents a comparative analysis of China's impact on two countries, Australia and South Africa, which have little in common other than a wealth of natural resources and a possible status as middle powers; this is a particularly useful exercise because these states are geographically distant and have very different political structures and general developmental histories. Second, the authors consider how China's bilateral ties look from a Chinese perspective in these two very different relationships. Such an analysis serves as a reminder that resource dependency is a two-way street. The article argues that underlying material realities are constraining and to some extent determining the domestic and foreign policies of three very different states that otherwise have little in common.