Widespread magmatism, metamorphic core complexes (MCCs), and significant lithospheric thinning occurred during the Mesozoic in the North China Craton (NCC). It has been suggested that the coeval exhumation of MCCs with uniform NW-SE shear senses and magmatism probably result from the decratonization event during the paleo-Pacific Plate retreat. Here we use 2-D finite element thermo-mechanical numerical models to investigate critical parameters controlling the formation of MCCs under far-field extensional stress. We observe three end-member deformation modes: MCC mode, symmetric-dome mode, and pure-shear mode. The MCC mode requires Moho temperature ≥ 700 °C and extensional strain rate ≥ 5×10-16 s-1, implying that the lithosphere had already been thinned when the MCC was formed in the Mesozoic. Combining with the widespread MCCs with the same NW-SE extension direction in the NCC, we suggest that MCCs are surface expressions of both large-scale extension and craton destruction and that rollback of the paleo-Pacific slab might be the common driving force.