High-quality development is the basic feature of China’s economy and society in the new era, and is the only way for the development of Northeast China under the new normal. Based on the specific connotation of high-quality development and the regional characteristics of Northeast China, we constructed an index system of 34 specific indicators form six dimensions: Effectiveness, stability, coordination, innovation, sustainability and sharing. Then we measured the high-quality development status, explored their spatial differences and shortcomings of development in various regions, and finally put forward the promotion path for different types of regions. In this article, we found that the level of high-quality development in Northeast China is lower than the national average, and only seven cities are above the average, they are Dalian, Shenyang, Changchun, Harbin, Daqing, Panjin and Benxi. On the whole, the effectiveness and stability of economic development in Northeast China are good, but the coordination, innovation and sharing are poor. Specifically, the shortcomings of development mainly include the proportion of the tertiary industry, the degree of dependence on foreign trade, the proportion of research and development investment in GDP, the number of patent grants per 10 000 people, and the growth rate of urban and rural residents' income. Therefore, the key to promote high-quality development in the future is to develop the tertiary industry and foreign trade, increase R & D investment, encourage invention patents, and increase the income of urban and rural residents. The high-quality development level of sub-provincial cities such as Dalian, Shenyang, Changchun, and Harbin are in the forefront. The overall pattern of high-quality development is ‘high in the south and low in the north’ and ‘uplift belt’ is formed along the Harbin-Dalian Railway. Cities with higher levels of coordination and sustainability are concentrated in central and southern Liaoning and Harbin-Changsha economic zone; Cities with high effectiveness and innovation level are mainly distributed along the Harbin-Dalian traffic corridor, while cities with high stability and sharing level are mainly distributed in the western and central parts of Northeast China. According to the score value of each dimension, all cities can be divided into seven types, and each type has different development shortcomings and upgrade path. For example, Dalian and Shenyang should improve the stability and sustainability, while Chaoyang, Suihua, Liaoyuan, Songyuan and Mudanjiang should improve the innovation and sharing. This research can help to enrich the theoretical research of high-quality development evaluation and provide reference for the high-quality development of Northeast China and other regions.