Mercury emissions in China have increased by 164% during 1992-2007. While major mercury producers were among energy combustion and nonferrous metal sectors, little is known for the socioeconomic factors driving the growth of emissions. In this paper we examine the underlying drivers and their contributions to the change of mercury emissions. Results show that changes in per capita GDP and GDP composition led to increased emissions which offset the reduction of emissions made possible by technology-induced decrease of mercury emissions intensity and changes in final demand mix. In particular, changes in final demand mix caused decreasing mercury emissions from 1992 to 2002 and increasing emissions from 2002 to 2007. Formation of fixed capital was the dominant driver behind the increase of mercury emissions, followed by the increasing urban population and net exports. This systems-based examination of socioeconomic drivers for China's mercury emission increase is critical for emission control by guiding policy-making and targets of technology development.