Although policies for green financial systems are proliferating across the globe, the dynamics shaping such policies remain inadequately understood. With China and the EU at the global forefront of green financial policies, this paper demonstrates how they each influence global policy norms through their distinct policy models. This contributes to the literature, first, by improving our understanding of the global green financial policy processes and, second, by challenging current expectations from the literature. Analysing three central policy areas (information disclosure, taxonomies, and central banking) from an institutional approach, the paper, first, finds that green financial policies are both proliferating and converging globally. Second, the paper finds that China pioneered policy types around 2015, creating an Overton Window. Subsequently, since 2018, the EU has been standardising policy contents within the policy types that China pioneered. The findings suggest that China acts as a policy pioneer through its top–down policy approach, whereas the EU acts as a standard setter through its bottom–up approach. Although this confirms the literature's expectation that the EU creates global standards, it challenges the expectation that China is both primarily a recipient of policy practice and too unique for other countries to learn from directly. In the broader context, the findings imply that the current global situation of competing political models may be an advantage as countries complement each other through both competition and collaboration. Efforts to align financial systems with sustainable development have moved from industry-led initiatives to state-led green financial policies, which are now proliferating and converging across the globe. China and the EU are the most influential actors in shaping how countries across the world use green financial policy because China acts as a policy pioneer based on its top–down policymaking model and the EU acts as a standard setter based on its bottom–up model. Although China and the EU have competing governance and policymaking models, their differences may have been an advantage to scaling up green financial policies as they complement each other through different roles. Awareness of their roles and different approaches should inform future China-EU policy coordination because harmonisation of practice remains a barrier to mainstreaming green finance. Other countries can benefit from awareness of policy developments in the EU and China to support their own policy development in terms of future scope and contents.