This paper explores power bases and power tensions among education bureaux, inspection offices, and schools in China. The six bases of social power were applied as the analytical framework to scrutinize 13 policy documents and eight interviews with inspectors. The study uncovered three types of power tensions: education bureau’s informational power versus inspection office’s legitimate power, inspectors’ expert power versus referent power, and school’s expert power versus inspection office and education bureau’s legitimate power. China is developing a high-stakes accountability-based inspection system. Inspectors and schools are pressured to deliver prescribed educational goals. Education bureaux remains powerful in the power structure.