Neither Hong Kong nor mainland China is a democracy, yet both have been active administrative reformers, having achieved significant changes but continuing to operate within systematic and institutional constraints, shaped by path-dependence. Within three decades, China has been transformed from a centrally planned economy into a thriving market economy in the name of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ – a form of market authoritarianism. Hong Kong, meanwhile, had prospered as part of the‘East Asia miracle’, and been an enthusiast of public sector reform in the ‘new public management’ fashion. Their path and logic of reform have never been entirely straightforward, displaying compromises and uneasy hybrids (more so in mainland China). Though confronted with rising political challenges to governance, both are arguably still ‘success’ types in their own right. The two reform trajectories have run in arguably totally different political contexts, but there is one similarity – administrative reforms were implemented in an authoritarian setting and had embraced a strong agenda of substituting political reforms. Copyright © 2012 The Author(s).