What explains the formation and division of conflict groups? What mechanisms shape the content and direction of factional alliances? This article addresses these questions by re-examining the factional politics and contentious conflicts in Guangzhou in 1967. It has long been recognised that during the Cultural Revolution there was a clear division between factions labelled as "conservative" and "radical", with the former comprised of groups that were relatively favourable to the status quo of Party authority and the latter composed of groups that were opposed to the existing rule. This interpretation, however, cannot withstand scrutiny at close range in light of the more extensive evidence available today. Focusing on the prominent case of Guangzhou, this article argues that the positions of both factions were interactive and strategic in nature. Their rivalry developed as a result of tactical manoeuvres and an ever-shifting set of interactions among local rebels, military authorities and political actors in Beijing, rather than any preexistence of rivalry or ideological differences. The discussion of the implications of a more dynamic interpretation of factional conflicts during the Cultural Revolution enhances our understanding of the contentious politics in Maoist China.