AbstractHourly tide-gauge data along the coast of China are used to evaluate changes in extreme water levels in the past several decades. Mean sea level, astronomical tide, nontidal component and the tide-surge interaction was analyzed separately to assess their roles in the changes of extreme sea levels. Mean sea level at five tide gauges, Kanmen, Keelung, Zhapo, Xiamen and Quarrybay, show significant increasing trends during the past decades (1954–2013) with a rate of about 1.4–3.5 mm/yr. At Keelung, Kaohsiung and Quarrybay the mean high waters increased during 1954–2013 with a rate from 0.6 to 1.8 mm/yr, while the annual mean tidal range rose at the same time by 0.9 to 3.8 mm/yr. In terms of storm surge intensities, there is interannual variability and decadal variability but five tide gauges show significant decreasing trends, and three gauges, at Keelung, Xiamen and Quarrybay, exhibited significant increases of extreme sea levels with trends of 1.5–6.0 mm/yr during 1954–2013. Significant tide-surge interactions were found at all 12 tide gauges, but no obvious change was found during the past few decades. The changes in extreme sea levels in this area are strongly related to the changes of mean sea levels (MSL). At gauges, where the tide-surge interaction is large, the astronomic tides are also an important factor for the extreme sea levels, whereas tide gauges with little tide-surge interaction, the changes of wind driven storm surge component adds to the change of the extreme sea levels.