Special economic zones (SEZs) can be an effective instrument to promote industrialisation if implemented properly. In China, starting in the 1980s, SEZs were used as a testing ground for China's transition from a planned to a market economy, and they are a prime example of China's pragmatic and experimental approach to reforms. One of the great SEZ success stories in China is the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP), a modern industrial township developed in the early 1990s through a Sino–Singapore partnership. It is successful not just in the economic sense, but also in terms of urban and social development in an eco-friendly way. One key lesson is that in a weak market environment, a facilitating and reform-oriented host government, coupled with foreign expertise and knowledge as well as a "wholistic" approach can go a long way in leveraging economic zones to boost global value chain participation. This article is intended to examine the success factors and key lessons of the Sino–Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park, which can be useful for other developing countries.