Halep would get more chances after squandering a commanding lead against Ostapenko in Paris, losing matches in Wimbledon and Cincinnati while knowing what was on the line, as well as another loss in Eastbourne that would have elevated her to the top but was not known until after the fact.
Nadal, the 2005 China Open champion, who has a tour-leading 60 match wins in 2017, will play Nick Kyrgios in Sunday's final after the Australian beat Zverev 6-3, 7-5.
"It's very emotional, I think it's the first time I cried on court", she said. Halep, thus, replaces Garbine Muguruza at the top of the rankings which will be updated on Monday.
Halep is yet to win a Grand Slam but reached her first major final at the French Open this year.More news: In Denmark found body parts of the Swedish journalist
"I think she played an incredible match, probably the best she's played against me in all of our previous meetings", said Sharapova, who won the China Open in 2014.
While Rafael Nadal, Alexander Zverev, Nick Kyrgios and Grigor Dimitrov headline the men's final four in Beijing, the women actually have the bigger event there - $1.271M to the women's victor vs $652K to the men's!
"Of course it's the best moment in my life, and I want just to keep it", Halep told reporters in Beijing. This time she won in an hour and 12 minutes. Still, she played really well those games, those next games [after falling 3-2 down].
"She was hitting the ball consistently, not making a lot of unforced errors, her service percentage was quite high".More news: North Haven Police Wear, Sell Pink Patches for Breast Cancer Awareness Month
On the other side, Jelena Ostapenko was playing her third consecutive semifinal in Asia trying to reach her first Premier Mandatory final in the process.
Halep advanced to set up a rematch against Russian Darya Kasatkina, who defeated her last week at the Wuhan Open.More news: Crude Oil Tightropes USD50 Again