As the world’s second largest economy and largest emitter of greenhouse gases, China’s participation in global climate governance has gained worldwide attention and has been under closer international scrutiny. This paper aims to understand China’s motivations and underlying forces that have driven its positions, practices and choices in this regard, particularly when negotiating and complying with the UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement. For this end, the article focuses on the changes and continuities of China in the evolving international climate norm-making. I argue that China’s roles and engagement in the processes have been fundamentally shaped by development patterns, perception of national roles, and international contexts. The paper concludes that based on social, political and economic conditions, a mutual understanding and learning between China and other countries can reveal insights on global governance in the future.