A fine strike from Chan Siu Ki and a Li Haiqiang penalty were enough to hand the hosts victory over their Premier League opponents who, despite having beaten Hull and West Ham at the Barclays Asia Trophy last week, never really got going at the Hong Kong Stadium. It was also the first time Spurs had conceded while in the Far East.
With the game being Tottenham's fourth in seven days, boss Harry Redknapp opted to give the younger players in his squad a chance with the likes of Jonathan Obika, John Bostock, Danny Rose and Jake Livermore all handed starts.
Skipper Li scored a memorable goal from a free-kick against Liverpool two years ago and had the chance to repeat that feat early on but sent his effort harmlessly wide.
Tottenham had their first chance in the 12th minute when Roman Pavlyuchenko and Bostock exchanged passes before the former struck a low effort that goalkeeper Zhang Chunhui had covered.
Chances were at a premium after that but Bostock forged an opportunity shortly before the half-hour mark when he broke towards the area and, with defenders backing off, unleashed a powerful drive that Zhang had to be at his best to deny.
The shotstopper was called on again in the 36th minute to palm away Pavlyuchenko's rasping drive before the Russian striker again threatened from distance with a low shot that Zhang held onto near his right post.
Redknapp made changes at half-time, bringing on Jermain Defoe to partner Pavlyuchenko up front while Robbie Keane took Jermaine Jenas' place in the middle of the park.
But, despite the increased potency of the Spurs attack, it was South China who took the lead six minutes after the restart.
From a throw-in, Chan brought the ball down smartly before turning towards goal and despatching a sublime strike that looped over substitute goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes and into the back of the net.
Spurs tried to respond as Defoe struck an effort over the crossbar before Keane's deft flick inside the box hit the woodwork while Pavlyuchenko again tried his luck from distance.
However, Tottenham fell further behind in the 68th minute when the referee pointed to the spot following a fairly innocuous challenge by Livermore on Chao Peng Fei and skipper Li stepped up to coolly chip the ball into the net.
Defoe fired wide from distance as Spurs attempted to rally late on but South China defended well to ensure the win.