Facing intense inter-city competition, urban development strategies in China’s metropolises require constant adaptation. To enhance economic strength and competitiveness, the shift from labor-intensive manufacturing towards modern service and high-tech industries is actively promoted on all policy levels. This change is particularly enforced in the mega-urban region of the Pearl River Delta (PRD) which for a long time has been known as the world’s factory. The main argument of this paper is that advancement along the value chain and the implementation of industrial upgrading processes require new institutional arrangements. Following an analytical governance approach, these are described taking the development of Guangzhou Science City as case study. Innovative components such as strategic urban planning and the increasing inclusion of non-state actors in development processes indicate a shift towards more marketoriented modes of urban governance. These modes allow the municipal governments a higher degree of flexibility and the implementation of a pro-growth-regime within a highly competitive urban environment.