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The aim of this research was to compare the following: 1) policies of the central and local governments of China and Thailand in driving Special Economic Zones, and 2) the benefits and targeted industries of Mengla and Chiang Rai Special Economic Zones that attract business investment. The research employed qualitative research methods, including the analysis of relevant policies, laws and regulations of Thailand and China at both the central and local government levels as well as in-depth interviews with stakeholders. The interviewed stakeholders were selected from four groups related to the Special Economic Zones: state officers, businessmen or entrepreneurs, local people and scholars. The results revealed that the Mengla and Chiang Rai Special Economic Zones have both similarities and differences in development strategies and benefits. The similarities include the context of their establishment, location and goal of reducing inequality between the coastal and the inner areas of the states. The different issues are the model and period of benefits, the utilization of land and the targeted industries. This research also indicates that key success factors for special economic zones, apart from the benefits, are management, infrastructure, and community.