When contracting parties adopt relational contracting (RC) as opposed to formal contracting stance, the construction project may achieve good outcomes. However, public projects usually face more constraints in adopting RC, as close relationships may lead to allegations of corruption. The aim of this study is to undertake a comparative analysis of drivers and barriers to adopting RC practices in public construction projects in two different markets viz. a centrally planned economy and a free market economy by investigating practices in Beijing and Sydney. The survey research design was adopted and data of public construction projects in Beijing and Sydney were collected using a structured questionnaire. The results revealed that relationship quality and level of harmony among contracting parties are significantly good in both cities. In Sydney, the level of inter-personal relations between contractors and consultants is significantly higher than in Beijing. It was found that the same 18 factors drive contracting parties in Beijing and Sydney to adopt RC practices, and in 6 instances, these are significantly greater drivers in Sydney. The barriers to adopting RC practices are totally dissimilar in both cities. Contracting parties in Beijing could not adopt more RC practices because of a lack of training in relational arrangement and public clients lack initiative in adopting RC practices. The conservative industry culture that encourages preservation of the status quo is also prevalent in Beijing. In Sydney, the only significant barrier is public sector accountability concerns. To cultivate readiness to embrace RC practices, it is suggested that industry professionals and the government adopt recommendations highlighted in this study according to the type of market structure.