Recent policy changes to the regulation of international schooling for Chinese nationals in China have seen restrictions on curriculum, admissions and ownership. While there is evidence of the impact of these changes at the institutional level, it is not clear how recent regulation has impacted the actors at the phenomenological level. In order to address this gap, we situate recent regulation within the concept of cosmopolitan nationalism, which highlights the interplay of local and global forces and places lived experience at the forefront of analysis. We also draw on qualitative survey and in-depth interview data with teachers from an international school in China that explored their understandings of international schooling. By analysing the teachers’ understandings of international schooling, we were able to gain an insight into the impact of regulation at the level of lived experience. Overall, we found little evidence that regulation had impacted the teachers’ beliefs about international schooling, suggesting either the normalisation of regulation or a lag between its implementation and internalisation. Our findings also suggested two main configurations of cosmopolitan nationalism held by the teachers. The first, which we refer to as ‘cosmopolitanism with national characteristics’, positions international schools as a more diverse and care-free alternative to domestic schooling. The second configuration of cosmopolitan nationalism, which we refer to as ‘nationalism with cosmopolitan characteristics’, positions the nation as the foundation and cosmopolitan-related aspects as peripheral.