Two types of tectonic basins are present on the continental shelf areas: (1) Bohai Gulf, South Yellow Sea, and Beibu Gulf are intraplate polyphase rift-depression basins, and (2) East China Sea, mouth of the Pearl River, and the Yingge Sea are epicontinental rift-depression basins. Both types are believed to be of extensional origin. The severe convergence of the Indian Plate with the Eurasia Plate produced east-northeast-spreading of the South China Sea basin, which resulted in two triple junctions on its northern margins. The Pacific Plate was subducted by downthrust beneath the Eurasia continental crust. The extension mechanism could be the rising of an upper mantle plume to produce two weak north-northeast-trending fracture zones. A series of intraplate and epicontinental rift-depression basins was formed. The depositional models and sea level variations of these basins have been interpreted from drilling records and seismic profiles. They can be explained by the tectonoeustatic changes in sea level and Cenozoic climatic changes in China.--Modified journal abstract.