This study demonstrates the distinctive strategy of low-carbon development path adopted by China. The authors argue that the Chinese central government has initiated competitive regional environmental pilot schemes that combine the national target with local policy measures to foster local entrepreneurship for policy innovations and experimentations in low-carbon transition, without fundamentally changing the existing Chinese performance evaluation and promotion system of local officials. Field investigations, documentary analyses and interviews regarding the low-carbon province and city (LCPC) pilot scheme launched in 2010 were conducted. Based on these studies, the authors found that innovative policy goals and instruments are practised by LCPC pilots in seven aspects, which manifest convergence towards the national low-carbon target and variations according to different local conditions. The authors contend that the strategy that involves competitive regional pilot schemes has broader usage in Chinese governance.