In the last three decades, China has experienced dual decentralization in transforming its economy, resulting in decentralization and deconcentration in public administration and social service delivery. Under the policy framework of decentralization, particularly when welfare financing has been decentralized to local governments, the emergence of welfare regionalism is evident in China. This paper sets out against this policy context to examine how three local governments in eastern coastal areas in China handle changing labour welfare needs by institutionalizing social and labour protection measures to meet the local needs instead of implementing central policy. With particular reference to examine why regional variations exist in welfare provision even though the socio-economic development status is similar in these areas, this paper shows how different forms of capitals, government's governance style and diversity of industries have affected welfare arrangements for labour in China. Copyright © 2013 Policy and Society Associates (APSS). Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.