In coping with the challenges of globalization, various reform measures, in the field of social policy, have been initiated in post-Mao China. Strategies such as privatization, marketization, commodification and societalization have been adopted to redefine the relationship between the state, the market and other non-state sectors involved in social policy provision and financing. In particular, the restructuring of state-owned enterprises and the de-monopolization of the state in social policy provision has inevitably led to significant changes in the post-Mao welfare regime. This article has chosen a theme ‘riding over socialism and global capitalism’ to examine how the Chinese government reinvents its social policy delivery by adopting new governance strategies to cope with the growing impacts of globalization. With particular reference to higher education, this article focuses on how the three major aspects of higher education governance, namely, provision, financing and regulation, have changed since the economic reform started in the late 1970s. This article concludes by asking whether the introduction of new governance strategies and new reform strategies in education have weakened the state capacity.