Changes in CO2 emissions during the COVID-19 pandemic have been estimated from indicators on activities like transportation and electricity generation. Here, we instead use satellite observations together with bottom-up information to track the daily dynamics of CO2 emissions during the pandemic. Unlike activity data, our observation-based analysis deploys independent measurement of pollutant concentrations in the atmosphere to correct misrepresentation in the bottom-up data and can provide more detailed insights into spatially explicit changes. Specifically, we use TROPOMI observations of NO2 to deduce 10-day moving averages of NO x and CO2 emissions over China, differentiating emissions by sector and province. Between January and April 2020, China's CO2 emissions fell by 11.5% compared to the same period in 2019, but emissions have since rebounded to pre-pandemic levels before the coronavirus outbreak at the beginning of January 2020 owing to the fast economic recovery in provinces where industrial activity is concentrated.