Unique intraplate volcano eruptions and westward volcano migration since the Oligocene have been observed in northeast China, where an overriding continental zone is tectonically controlled by the subduction of the northwestern Pacific plate and the opening of Japan Sea. Interestingly, these intraplate magmatic events occur around a subsiding basin (the Songliao Basin), but no volcanic activity has been observed within the Songliao Basin. The geodynamic mechanism responsible for these volcanoes remains unclear. To address the geodynamic process beneath northeast China, we conducted numerical models constrained by data from regional reconstruction and seismic and volcanic studies. The vertical velocity field of mantle convection and lithospheric partial melting structures derived from our models show that mantle upwelling and melting centers migrate from east to west in northeast China with the westward propagation of the sub-horizontal slab in the transition zone, leading to the observed volcano migration. Also, with the subduction retreat of the northwestern region of the Pacific plate and the opening of the Japan Sea, significant lithospheric thickness differences developed between the Changbaishan-Mudanjiang region and the Songliao Basin, leading to lithospheric unstable dripping. This dripping structure prevents the partial melting of the lithosphere but facilitates the subsidence of the Songliao Basin. Moreover, the lithospheric dripping model successfully predicts upper mantle structures consistent with the proposed tomography model, the observed Moho depth, and surface topography variations. Thus, lithospheric dripping induced by lithospheric thickness differences and the retreating subduction of the Pacific slab provides a robust mechanism for the unique geodynamic processes in northeast China.

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