The changing carbon content of coal consumed in China between 2002 and 2012 is quantified using information from the power sector. The carbon content decreased by 7.7% over this interval, the decrease particularly pronounced between 2007 and 2009. Inferences with respect to the changing carbon content of coal and the oxidation rate for its consumption, combined with the recent information on coal use in China, are employed to evaluate the trend in emissions of CO2. Emissions are estimated to have increased by 158% between 2002 and 2012, from 3.9 Gt y-1 to 9.2 Gt y-1. Our estimated emissions for 2005 are notably consistent with data reported by China in its “Second National Communication” to the UN (NDRC, 2012) and significantly higher than the estimation published recently in Nature. The difference is attributed, among other factors, to the assumption of a constant carbon content of coal in the latter study. The results indicate that CO2 emissions of China in 2005 reported by Second National Communication are more reliable to serve as the baseline for China's future carbon commitments (e.g. those in Paris Agreement of the UNFCCC). Discrepancies between national and provincial statistics on coal production and consumption are investigated and attributed primarily to anomalous reporting on interprovincial trade in four heavily industrialized provinces.