Since the late 1970s, China has undergone large-scale socio-economic transformations, which have enormously impacted its governance. The evolution of the central administration of labour provides an appropriate sample illustrating how market transition (or economic marketisation) and globalisation affect the government system in China, and how a new mode of governance gradually takes shape against this background. Being the national agency in charge of policymaking and administration of labour and employment, the central administration of labour, i.e. Ministry of Labor, has played a pivotal role in (re-)structuring the national economy. Since the reform, the administration has undertaken periodic institutional, structural and functional changes. This article, first of all, proposes an analytical framework for the study. Second, it examines how the central administration has reacted to the external environment and responded to changes in the context of marketisation, nation-building and globalisation. Third, it identifies the salient features of this new mode of labour governance, and by referring to stimulus-response theory, attempts to further theorise it.