China’s experience with agricultural biotechnology has been dramatic. Many new technologies have been developed by public sector research institutes that rival the outputs of the major biotech corporations. This has happened in the context of policy processes and priority setting exercises that are articulated in terms of the provision of public goods. In many respects this model contrasts with other parts of the world where the private sector has been dominant. The paper looks at how and why China has so vigorously pursued this biotech path, looking in particular at the role of science-policy networks in promoting a biotechnology discourse. It also looks at the particular challenges associated with developing a domestic biotech industry while managing multinationals such as Monsanto. A central question is to what extent this experience is an example of the state acting “developmentally”: steering both the private and public sectors to deliver public goods, and seizing the opportunities presented by a new technology while attempting to ensure that there is some level of social control over it. The paper asks: to what extent is China a biotech developmental state; and what are some of the challenges and limitations associated with this way of looking at the Chinese experience?