A great deal of research has addressed the tension between economic globalization and local cultural identity, and the tension between convergence in global policy objectives and divergence in local practices, but research has not explored the impact of the complex interactions between these tensions on an individual university, especially in relation to university autonomy. This paper attempts to bridge this gap. Based on a case study of Tsinghua University in China, this paper explores the university's role in three interrelated processes: the incorporation of international experience into higher education, in order to respond to economic globalization; the reinforcement of political education, as a means of preserving the state-prescribed cultural identity; and the quest for autonomy, to facilitate the university's move towards world-class status. Tensions raised by the interaction of these processes will also be discussed. This paper concludes by applying the concept of 'glocalization - i.e., 'thinking and acting both globally and locally - as a means of understanding the complex interrelations of global, national, and local factors that inform the translation of global imperatives into local realities in the context of Tsinghua. Copyright © 2006 Taylor & Francis.