This paper contributes to the empirical literature on banking profitability by testing the impacts of competition and shadow banking on bank profitability using a sample of 100 Chinese commercial banks over 2003–2013 with 417 and 395 observations. The current study fills the gaps in the empirical studies by examining the competition in different banking markets (i.e. deposit market, loan market and non-interest income market) in China and further evaluating their impacts on bank profitability. The findings show that the non-interest income market has a higher level of competition compared to the deposit market and loan market. It is further reported that a lower level of competition in deposit market leads to an increase in the profitability of Chinese commercial banks. Finally, the results suggest that shadow banking improves the profitability of Chinese banks.