A severe drought occurred in East China (EC) from August to October 2019 against a background of long-term significant warming and caused widespread impacts on agriculture and society, emphasizing the urgent need to understand the mechanism responsible for this drought and its linkage to global warming. Our results show that the warm central equatorial Pacific (CEP) sea surface temperature (SST) and anthropogenic warming were possibly responsible for this drought event. The warm CEP SST anomaly resulted in an anomalous cyclone over the western North Pacific, where enhanced northerly winds in the northwestern sector led to decreased water vapor transport from the South China Sea and enhanced descending air motion, preventing local convection and favoring a precipitation deficiency over EC. Model simulations in the Community Earth System Model Large Ensemble Project confirmed the physical connection between the warm CEP SST anomaly and the drought in EC. The extremely warm CEP SST from August to October 2019, which was largely the result of natural internal variability, played a crucial role in the simultaneous severe drought in EC. The model simulations showed that anthropogenic warming has greatly increased the frequency of extreme droughts in EC. They indicated an approximate twofold increase in extremely low rainfall events, high temperature events, and concurrently dry and hot events analogous to the event in 2019. Therefore, the persistent severe drought over EC in 2019 can be attributed to the combined impacts of warm CEP SST and anthropogenic warming.