"Today, the lion has woken up. But it is peaceful, pleasant and civilised," said Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Addressing a meeting in Paris to mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations with France, Xi said: "According to history, realising the Chinese dream would bring opportunities rather than threats, peace rather than turmoil to the world. It will help the world make progress in various aspects."
"Napoleon Bonaparte once said that China 'is a sleeping lion and when China wakes up, the world will shake'. In fact, the lion of China has awoken, but what the world sees now, is a peaceful, amiable, civilised lion."
Historians, nonetheless, dispute the authenticity of attributing the original quote to the French leader.
French president François Hollande was also present on the occasion. The two heads of state later held talks on boosting bilateral ties.
The lion metaphor cited by Xi is seen as a pointer to a more hawkish Chinese foreign policy in the coming years.
"Have you ever seen a peaceful, civilised and not aggressive lion? A lion is a big, wild and predatory animal, very much like China in its relations with other countries," Jean-Pierre Cabestan, the chief of the political science department at the Hong Kong Baptist University, told the South China Morning Post.
Since Xi's takeover late last year, there have been frequent territorial disputes with China's neighbouring countries as well as a perceptible shift in Beijing's relations with other countries including the US.
Jin Canrong, professor of international studies at Renmin University, said: "I am surprised by [Xi's] remarks. Xi is basically admitting that China is powerful, and that he is aware that some countries will be nervous about it, but they have to get used to China's status."
Xi is on his first-ever state visit to Europe and is currently in Berlin marking the third leg of his tour.
Following his two-day trip in Germany, Xi is due to visit the European Union's headquarters in Belgium which is widely seen as an attempt to boost economic ties with the 28-member bloc.