Academic identity formation is strongly influenced by higher education contexts. In the past decades, the Chinese higher education sector has attempted to integrate academic internationalization at the local level. In this context, international returnees and locally trained scholars may encounter different issues in the process of constructing academic identities at various stages of their careers. However, relatively few studies have critically analyzed how international returnees and locally trained scholars understand their academic identity formation during their student years, as they transition to becoming academics, and as they begin to become more established in academic roles under increasingly complex global-national-local conditions. Drawing upon the concept of social hybridization and the notion of global-national-local imbrications, this narrative study investigates six scholars’ trajectories of academic identity formation across different stages of the early phase of their careers, including during their doctoral studies and their initial period as early career academics. The findings show that academics’ identity development entails a process of struggle and confusion during earlier stages through to the construction of a more hybrid academic identity. By exploring the challenges and issues experienced by different cohorts of academics, scholars may better understand the internationalization of Chinese higher education and interweaving relationships with the global context.