The Spaniard eased past Fabio Fognini of Italy in the Chinese city, winning 6-3, 6-1 at the Qizhong Forest Sports City Arena.
In the quarterfinals, Nadal will meet the iron with the Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov.
But there was little fight from the 30-year-old as Nadal lost only six points on serve in the opening set.
The tournament's fourth seed did see his ideal serving record broken by Ramos-Vinolas, who broke Cilic for the first time in this year's Shanghai Masters during the second set, although it only delayed his advance into the final four.
Timeless rival Federer was even faster, dismissing Ukrainian qualifier Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-4, 6-2 in 61 minutes. Nonetheless, he sent a backhand long in game 7 to drop serve again and there was no returning from there since Marin sealed the deal with 2 holds at love to book his place in the semis.
Fognini was playing the day after being handed a suspended ban from two grand slams and $96,000 fine for verbally abusing a female umpire at the U.S. Open.
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"Winning a lot of matches in a row, so I'm very happy for everything", Nadal said.
"My team has worked really well in all parts of my game just to bring it up to the nice level that I can keep it up throughout every single week", he said.
Fourth-seeded Marin Cilic stands between Nadal and a second ATP final in two weeks.
"I got to understand also all the things that we were working on".
The Croatian beat Spain's Albert Ramos Vinolas 6-3 6-4.
Cilic was broken for the first time in his 29th service game of the week at 3-3 in the second set by Ramos-Vinolas. "Maybe this match-up was maybe a bit easier and I took my chances more".