Recent surveys in studies of Chinese politics indicate that few concepts from this sub- field have gained traction in comparative politics or other social sciences. In this article, we draw on theories of subnational analysis and comparison to argue that even in a strong, authoritarian state such as China—often considered to be ”unique”—there are some policy areas where the preferences of the center are less important. In these cases, theories and findings may be applicable to other contexts. We introduce a typology to show that careful consideration of the interests and information of national and subnational actors can allow us to identify generalizable policy areas. Depending on the particular configuration, we can then predict how the central state evaluates local actors, variations in local implementation, and the potential for generalizability to set- tings beyond China. We apply this typology to several policy areas—social stability, social security, environmental governance, and political selection—to derive expecta- tions about the behavior of central and local states, and identify when researchers can (and cannot) treat subnational units as independent. We argue that this typology gives researchers a tool to construct their theoretical framework more precisely and interpret the implications of their findings more broadly for future subnational research.