Patterns of sustainable development have varied dramatically in the last four decades in China with a growing relevance of investments in ‘eco-cities’ being embedded within this discourse by politicians, planning professionals and academics (Qiu, 2009; Li, X., 2012; Li, H.L., 2012). However, the current status of eco-city programmes in China remains dynamic after 10 years of development. This paper critically examines the development of eco-city programmes in China through an evaluation of the lessons and challenges experienced. The Tianjin Eco-city and Dongtan Eco-city developments are used in the paper to synthesise the present gaps with respect to political, economic, socio-cultural, and environmental dimensions of eco-city programmes. Furthermore, it highlights the barriers to collaboration and communication within China, which are constraining the process of consultation with public and private stakeholders, plan-making and implementation. The paper concludes with a discussion of how these issues influence the delivery of the eco-city programme and their impact on the future development of the programme.