The Yinggehai–Song Hong basin is one of the world's largest pull-apart basins, lying along the trace of the Red River fault zone in the South China Sea. South of Hainan Island this basin crosscuts the rifted margin of the northern South China Sea. In this paper we present for the first time a regional compilation of multichannel seismic reflection data from both the strike slip and rifted margins. The basins started to open after ∼45 Ma, especially after ∼34 Ma. The Yinggehai basin was folded and inverted in the middle Miocene, after 21 Ma in the north and 14 Ma in the south, before rapidly subsiding again after ∼5 Ma because of continued tectonism. This subsidence has caused shale diapirism, especially driven by associated sedimentation in the late Pliocene (2.6–2.0 Ma). Extension along the adjacent south Hainan margin shows preferential lower crustal extension, suggestive of lower crustal flow increasing toward the continent-ocean transition during breakup. Sediment supply is reconstructed to peak in the middle Miocene, then falls between 14 and 10.3 Ma to reach a low in the late Miocene. However, rates rose again in the Pliocene-Pleistocene. The Red River sediment budget is incompatible with climate models that propose stronger monsoon rains starting at 8 Ma or with large-scale river capture away from the Red River after ∼10 Ma. Both lines of evidence point to major uplift in the Red River drainage being middle Miocene or older. The recent, preindustrial Red River carried much more sediment than the average Pleistocene accumulation rate, indicating modest sediment buffering onshore, at least in recent geologic time.