Continents grow mainly through magmatism, relamination, accretionary prism development, sediment underplating, tectonic accretion of seamounts, oceanic plateaus and oceanic lithosphere, and collisions of island arcs at convergent margins. The modern Pacific–Rim subduction zone environments present a natural laboratory to examine the nature of these processes. The papers in this special issue focus on the: (1) modern and ancient accretionary margins of Japan; (2) arc–continent collision zone in the Taiwan orogenic belt; (3) accreting versus non-accreting convergent margins of the Americas; and (4) several examples of ancient convergent margins of East Asia. Subduction erosion and sediment underplating are important processes, affecting the melt evolution of arc magmas by giving them special crustal isotopic characteristics. Oblique arc–continent collisions cause strong deformation partitioning that results in orogen-parallel extension, crustal exhumation and wrench faulting in the hinterland, and thrust faulting–folding in the foreland. Trench-parallel widths of subducting slabs exert major control on slab geometries, the degree of coupling–decoupling between the lower and upper plates, and subduction velocity partitioning. An initially large width of the subducting Palaeo-Pacific Plate against East Asia caused flat subduction and resistance to slab rollback during the Triassic Period. These conditions resulted in shortening across SE China. Foundering and delamination of the flat slab during the Early Jurassic Epoch led to slab segmentation and reduced slab widths, followed by slab steepening and rollback. This pull-away tectonics induced lithospheric extension and magmatism in SE China during Late Jurassic – Cretaceous time. Melting of subducted carbonaceous sediments commonly produces networks of silicate veins in CLM that may subsequently undergo partial melting, producing ultrapotassic magmas.