This research focuses on the city of Guangzhou, which has been – together with other Pearl River Delta municipalities – a pioneer in transforming its urban environment in the last thirty years. The objective of the study is to investigate how recent strategic urban planning visions have affected Guangzhou’s territory, thereby promoting important renovation projects. Chinese urban studies and the international literature have widely examined how this urban revolution has completely altered the landscape’s morphology under the influence of the global market, but at the same time, a lack of understanding of the processes behind its formation has been identified. For this reason, this study aims to deeply examine the relationships established between policymakers, experts, considering urban planning goals and consequences that operate at the local scale due the formation of precise ‘urban alliances’. In this sense, the main target is to identify the forces producing the construction of precise planning visions and measure how they have been translated into visible traces influencing the collective imaginary. This point of view has been selected to achieve a new perspective on the formation of the Chinese metropolis, going beyond the dichotomy between top-down governing forces and local resilience and recognizing that behind the creation of a coded and homogeneous city growth, it could be possible to survey a recombination of heterogeneous strategies, locally activated but united in persuading a precise spatial horizon. To create a solid base to conduct the investigation, a spatial and institutional alignment of the transformation is set via the selection of a precise geography, as suggested by the expansionist direction of the Guangzhou Strategic Master Plan 2000–2010, which promoted intense urban transformation of the southern part of the municipality. Therefore, the analysis aims to combine the identification of precise ‘pro-growth’ groups of stakeholders governing the processes at various scales and implementation of their operative tools, while measuring the conflicts between their visions and the consistency of the local morphology. Under this perspective, the territory has been considered in terms of how it could disclose its diachronic and synchronic features, and thanks to their methodological recomposition, illustrate all the deviations remaining within the targets of this metropolis as it looks toward assuming a role in the global market. For this reason, ‘space production’ is more in focus than the geometrical outcome; to this end, the study considers the mutual influence between local practices, representation tools and stakeholders involved in decision-making processes, thereby enlarging the theoretical framework concerning urban expansion. The analysis serves both to describe the background within which the municipal government of Guangzhou seeks to modify its comprehensive southern direction and detect specific case studies that could express all the contradictions between the overall transformation and its local implementation. In this way, the mutation of the Guangzhou Textile Creative Industry to give space for the new city museum cluster, the future demolition of the LiJiao ‘village in the city’ for a new residential enclave or the substitution of rural patterns to allow the construction of a new Central Business District in the fragile environment of Nansha District, have been characterised by heterogeneous narrative support in demonstrating the negotiation of values to re-adjust the municipal urban structure. In conclusion, the main challenge in this approach concerning the spatial transformation of a 21st-century mature metropolis like Guangzhou is to avoid polarising the Chinese urban phenomenon as an overall valid contraposition of elements. Rather than doing this, the study aims to re-frame territorial peculiarities as an experimental field of stratification of meanings, struggling between new opportunities and profound debates, capable of combining local pragmatism and comprehensive visions and negotiating its role in the multiple influences of contemporary urbanisation.