The spatial impacts of the post‐Mao development strategy are examined at the local level from various perspectives using the Zhujiang Delta, southern China as a case. The findings of this article suggest that the overall growth performance during the period from 1978 to 1992 has been extremely strong, in spite of fluctuating and uneven development between industrial and agricultural sectors. As a result of economic reform and the open door policy, particularly of free market forces, the spatial economic pattern changed from one in which Guangzhou monopolized the development to one that became dominated by two core areas after 1985. Moreover, the spatial relationship between the industrial and agricultural sectors has evolved into a new, balanced sectoral development pattern from place to place. Finally, in keeping with Chinese classical socialist development objectives, regional disparity in the delta since 1978 has shown a tendency to decline.