Nearly all of the fast action in China’s sprawling housing market is now happening outside the country’s busiest conurbations and regional city-hubs – with the notable exception of Guangzhou, a tier-1 city and the capital of Guangdong province, which neighbors Hong Kong.

As detailed in the above satellite map, home prices in a third of all 70 cities surveyed by the National Bureau of Statistics have risen by more than 3% since March 1.

Each of the cities facing strong upward price pressure is represented by a green dot – and all except one fell outside the government’s watch-list of 15 hottest tier-1 and tier-2 housing markets.

Their 4% average gain for the March-May three-month period – which runs out at over 10% annualized – debunks the notion that genuine end-user demand has now taken over speculative demand in the Chinese housing sector.

The wide dispersion of the 23 green dots also shows that this is not a localized phenomenon. It is happening across the country, and especially in the countryside.

Prices of new homes in cities with little global recognition surged the most during the past three months. Their growth neared 6%, with a noticeably steeper rate of increase in May.

Guangzhou is the one dark horse that has broken loose from the rest of the pack of tier-1 Chinese cities: Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. Investors are apparently flocking to the Southern capital, possibly to secure a ticket to ride the rollercoaster of another government master plan, namely the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Great Bay Area concept, which was unveiled in March.

New home prices rose 0.93% on average in May across 55 cities not on the government’s watch-list, compared with barely above-zero growth for those 15 cities.

That represented a third consecutive month of relatively fast increases among the smaller cities and the continuation of a divergent trend in China’s housing market.

The upward price trend is also in line with bank lending data for the month of May which showed mortgages still taking up a huge chunk – approximately 40% – of the banking sector’s monthly new loan quota. Nothing has really changed, has it?