This paper compares two cases: It relates to the development of new urban sub-centres in China, and the relationship of these sub-centres to ‘Network City’ theory. As cities move towards more polycentric systems, the case of Potsdamer Platz Berlin, compared to Zhenru Sub-Centre in Shanghai, is discussed. Both are transport-oriented developments promoting mixed-use density and transport-oriented development. According to the documentation by Shanghai municipality, this new urban centre, which is currently in its planning phase, is supposed to become a ‘sustainable sub-centre for a growing metropolis.’ The author, who has intimate knowledge of the Berlin case, was asked to advice on the Chinese project, based on the Potsdamer Platz experience. After some hesitation, a series of careful recommendations were formulated for the design and development of the Zhenru Sub-Centre, knowing that it is rather difficult to translate from one case to the other. The conclusion includes five recommendations for the urban design of such sub-centres, to ensure a delivery of economical, social and environmental sustainable outcomes.