China’s carbon peak greatly impacts global climate targets. Limited studies have comprehensively analyzed the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic, changing emission network, and recent carbon intensity (CI) reduction on the carbon peak and the corresponding mitigation implications. Using a unique dataset at different levels, we project China’s CO2 emission by 2035 and analyze the time, volume, driver patterns, complex emission network, and policy implications of China’s carbon peak in the post- pandemic era. We develop an ensemble time-series model with machine learning approaches as the projection benchmark, and show that China’s carbon peak will be achieved by 2021–2026 with > 80% probability. Most Chinese cities and counties have not achieved carbon peaks response to the priority-peak policy and the current implementation of CI reduction should thus be strengthened. While there is a "trade off" between the application of carbon emission reduction technology and economic recovery in the post-pandemic era, a close cooperation of interprovincial CO2 emission is also warranted.