There is an ongoing debate on whether the observed decadal variations in surface solar radiation, known as "dimming and brightening", are a global or just local phenomenon. We investigated this issue using a comprehensive set of long-term sunshine duration records from China, which experienced a rapid growth in urbanization during past decades. 172 pairs of urban and nearby rural stations were analyzed over the period 1960–1989 ("dimming phase") and 1990–2013 ("brightening phase").