Bubba Watson set the clubhouse target at the Shenzhen International before the threat of lightning saw play suspended on Thursday.
The big-hitting American has been one of the headline acts in each of the first three editions of the event and arrived at Genzon Golf Club looking to improve on his best finish of a tie for eighth last season.
An early bogey threatened to scupper those plans but that was the only blemish of his round as he signed for a 66 to take a one-shot lead.
South African duo Dean Burmester and Haydn Porteous, Frenchman Grégory Bourdy and German Maximilian Kieffer were all at five under.
Play was then suspended at 1410 with storms in the area and resumed at 1600.
Watson's bogey came on the 12th after starting on the tenth but the two-time Masters Tournament champion bounced back with birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th to turn in 34.
A birdie at the first was followed by an approach to eight feet on the par five second setting up an eagle that catapulted him to the top of the leaderboard.
He was joined by both Burmester and Porteous at the summit after a run of six pars - including a save after hitting the pin on the seventh - but a final gain on the ninth put him alone in the driving seat.
Porteous had a roller coaster of a round containing just four pars as he looks to continue his improving recent form after missing his first six cuts of the season.
The 22 year old parred the first but made four birdies and two bogeys in his next six holes before a double-bogey on the ninth saw him turn in 36. Gains on the tenth, 11th and 13th were followed by a dropped shot on the 15th but a birdie-birdie-birdie finish put him right in contention.
Countryman Burmester turned in 33 and when he picked up shots on the first and second he was in a share of the lead with Watson. A bogey on the seventh dropped him back but he made a closing gain on the ninth.
Bourdy also birdied the ninth in his blemish-free effort with further gains coming on the 14th, 17th, first and sixth.
Kieffer made his only bogey of the day on the sixth as he turned in 35 but came to life on the back nine, birdieing the 11th, 13th, 16th and 17th.
England's Tommy Fleetwood had set the early pace with four birdies in his first five holes but he bogeyed the second to sign for a three under par 69 alongside Chinese duo Liang Ding-feng and Liu Yan-Wei, and American Daniel Im.
Im made a hat-trick of birdies from the 18th in a bogey-free effort while Liu had a single blemish on the 16th.
Liang overcame a double-bogey on the ninth to get to four under but then dropped a shot on the last.
Austrian Bernd Wiesberger birdied three of his first four holes to also sit at three under, a shot ahead of David Drysdale, Chris Hanson, Peter Hanson, David Howell, Romain Langasque, James Morrison and Jason Scrivener.