Abstract: A key strategy for meeting China’s 2060 carbon neutrality goal and the global 1.5°C climate goal is to rapidly shift away from unabated coal use. This study details how to structure a high-ambition coal phaseout in China while balancing multiple national needs. The study evaluated the 1,037 currently operating coal plants based on comprehensive technical, economic, and environmental criteria and developed a metric for prioritizing plants for early retirement. Coal plants retirement pathways were designed based on global 1.5°C and 2°C scenarios, retirement priority of individual plants, and specific policy designs for an appropriately paced, sustainable coal phaseout strategy in China. To do this, a three-principle strategy needs to be followed: no new coal plant construction, rapid shutdown of older and inefficient plants, and a shift of coal generation from base load to peak load in China’s power system.