© 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Multiple ecological engineering projects have been implemented in semiarid and subhumid Northern China since 1978 with the purpose to combat desertification, control dust storms, and improve vegetation cover. Although a plethora of local studies exist, the effectiveness of these projects has not been studied in a systematic and comprehensive way. Here, we used multiple satellite-based time-series data as well as breakpoint analysis to assess shifts in leaf area index (a proxy for green vegetation cover), gross primary production, and aboveground biomass in Northern China. We documented increased vegetation growth in northwest and southeastern parts of the region, despite drought anomalies as documented by the standardized precipitation-evapotranspiration index during 1982–2016. Significant breakpoints in leaf area index were observed for over 72.5% of the southeastern and northwestern regions, and 70.6% of these breakpoints were detected after 1999, which correspond well to the areas with the highest ecological engineering efforts. Areas with negative trends were mainly located in the Inner Mongolian Plateau, Hulun Biur, Horqin Sand Land, and urban areas. The Loess Plateau had the largest increase in vegetation growth, followed by the north parts of Northern China where biomass increased more in the provinces of Shanxi, Liaoning, Shannxi, Hebei, and Beijing than Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Tianjin, and Qinghai. Our results show that multiple ecological engineering projects in the region have increased vegetation cover, production, and aboveground biomass that have led to improved environmental conditions in the study area.