This paper challenges the stereotypical portrayal of English Language teachers in China by analysing the pedagogy of a 'traditional' secondary school teacher, Mr Yang. The paper starts by distinguishing between 'pedagogy'-the teacher's personal construction of beliefs and practices about teaching and learning-and 'methodology'-a generalized set of procedures underpinned by a theoretical rationale. The study then examines what happens to Mr Yang's pedagogy when the state promotes a new methodology that seems to be in conflict with aspects of his pedagogy. Analysis of curriculum documents and interviews with key participants establish the promoted methodology, while interviews, documentary analysis and lesson observations are used to study Mr Yang's pedagogy. The paper then describes how Mr Yang reconciles his pedagogy with the innovative methodology in a context constrained by examination requirements and the pressure of time. The paper shows that the portrayal of English Language teachers in the literature as transmitters of grammatical knowledge, bound by textbooks, fails to capture the dynamic nature of pedagogy as a personal construct forged by the interplay of beliefs, experiences and practice, and contextual factors operating at the micro-level (the chalkface) and at the macro-level (state policy). Copyright © 2003 The Continuum Publishing Group Ltd.