Manuel Pellegrini celebrated his maiden win as Manchester City manager thanks to Edin Dzeko's first-half header against South China.
Dzeko nodded in a James Milner cross in the 21st minute of the Barclays Asia Trophy match at Hong Kong Stadium to secure City's passage into the tournament's final on Saturday.
There they will meet Sunderland, who earlier overcame Tottenham 3-1 at the same ground.
Due to bad weather, that game started later than scheduled and was reduced to 40 minutes per half, a format then also adopted for the City contest.
Pellegrini, appointed as successor to the sacked Roberto Mancini in June, was returning to the dugout having been absent for family reasons earlier this month when his side were beaten 2-1 by AmaZulu - City's second defeat in two pre-season friendlies.
The Chilean included midfielder Fernandinho, one of the Blues' summer signings, in the starting line-up and saw his team look comfortable in the opening exchanges, with Dzeko firing into the side-netting and Yaya Toure then having a header saved.
City duly took the lead when Milner neatly evaded a challenge on the right and delivered a ball which Dzeko headed into the ground and past the goalkeeper from close range.
The next time City really looked threatening was two minutes after the break as Toure flashed an effort across the face of goal and wide.
South China then enjoyed a spell of pressure, before Toure was substituted for another new recruit in striker Alvaro Negredo, who was making his unofficial Blues debut and soon sent an acrobatic effort over the bar.
Negredo subsequently teed up his fellow frontman Dzeko, with the Bosnian being denied by a smart save, before the lively Milner launched an audacious long-range attempt that went off target.