We determined the historical change in soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks from long-term field trials that represent major soil types and climatic conditions of northern China. Soil carbon and general circulation models were validated using these field trial data sets. We then applied these models to predict future change in SOC stocks to 2100 using two net primary production (NPP) scenarios (i.e., current NPP or 1% year-1 NPP increase). The conversion rate of plant residues to SOC was higher in single-cropping sites than in double-cropping sites. The prediction of future SOC sequestration potential indicated that these soils will be a net source of carbon dioxide (CO2) under no fertilizer inputs. Even when inorganic nutrients were applied, the additional carbon input from increased plant residues could not meet the depletion of SOC in parts of northern China. Manure or straw application could however improve the SOC sequestration potential at all sites. The SOC sequestration potential in northern China was estimated to be -4.3 to 18.2 t C ha-1 by 2100. The effect of projected climate change on the annual rate of SOC change did not differ significantly between climate scenarios. The average annual rate of SOC change under current and increased NPP scenarios (at 850 ppm CO2) was approximately 0.136 t C ha -1 yr-1 in northern China. These findings highlight the need to maintain, and where possible increase, organic carbon inputs into these farming systems which are rapidly becoming inorganic fertilizer intensive. ©2014. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.