The Tibetan Plateau offers an example for understanding the processes of continental collision and subsequent intracontinental deformation. The Jiuxi Basin, located at the northeastern margin of the plateau, bears crucial information on the growth processes of the NE Tibetan Plateau. Combined with published magnetostratigraphic constraints, integration of stratigraphic investigation and detrital zircon geochronological analysis on the sediments of the Cenozoic Hongliuxia section in western Jiuxi Basin suggests a major reorganization of the basin infill process at the period between depositions of the Baiyanghe and Shulehe formations at ~17 Ma. This finding is documented by (1) a generally upward-thinning sequence followed by an upward-coarsening sequence with corresponding changes in sedimentary facies, (2) shifting of the paleocurrent from the south to the north, and (3) shifting of the provenance from the Bei Shan-Kuantan Shan-Hei Shan in the north to the North Qilian Shan in the south. These results suggest that tectonic deformation arrived in the North Qilian Shan by ~17 Ma and lend support to the outward-growth model for the Tibetan Plateau.