In post-reform China, rapid motorisation causes various problems like traffic congestion, diminishing road safety and air pollution. Adequate policies necessitate an understanding of the forces behind changing mode choices, but the rapidly developing literature is not complete yet. This paper aims to help fill that gap with an analysis of mode choice for commuting and shopping-leisure trips in Nanjing. Using the Nanjing Residents Travel Survey, we find that models with the same independent variables explain mode choice in Nanjing better than in other cities in the world. Comparatively, members of ‘adult families’ use public transport and walking more often than the private car and bicycle. And inhabitants of danwei neighbourhoods walk more often than residents in commodity housing estates. These conclusions suggest that ongoing socio-spatial transformations will push mode choice in China further towards private car use.