This paper examines the interactions between subnational governments in influencing the Chinese national state in economic and spatial planning by focusing on two cases in south China, namely the pursuit of a new reform and development plan by Guangdong province in 2008 and Hong Kong's effort to position itself in China's 12th Five-Year Plan (FYP). The intergovernmental dynamics inside the Greater Pearl River Delta (PRD) can be interpreted as the policy advocacy and coordination of entrepreneurial local states in a fragmented, authoritarian polity. Guangdong province actively pursued central approval of the PRD's regional plan because central support is critical not only for approving specific projects but also for steering its development direction and providing a policy tool to impose coordination plans in order to achieve better regional coordination and resource allocation inside the Delta. The province has skilfully leveraged on Hong Kong to get central approval and delegation of power over pilot measures regarding Guangdong–Hong Kong economic cooperation. Similarly, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government's efforts to secure a privileged position for Hong Kong in the 12th FYP can be considered as a competitive positioning strategy in view of growing competition within the PRD and from other regions.