This paper examines the socio-economic and geopolitical outcomes associated with infrastructure development across multiple scales. Starting from the premise that planetary socio-technical transformations in this vein have distinctly national drivers, we focus on the urban agency of Chinese-led investment. The paper explores how different forms of infrastructural development generated by the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) affects transformations in the political and material fabric of cities and their host regions. We approach BRI-related infrastructural practice through three interconnected optics–discourse, instruments, and politics–so as to interrogate the articulation of projects linked to the BRI within the material site of the urban. Based on theorisations of infrastructure from an urban perspective and a critical review of literature on the BRI itself, we develop three illustrative case studies at different spatial scales and within different geographic contexts–in Pakistan, Central Europe and the UK. To examine the cases as well as their embeddedness in broader debates on the topic, we use a systematic review methodology relying on a wide variety of sources. We offer comparative and relational perspectives on the manner in which these relatively diverse cases demonstrate China’s role as a global urban actor.