The 31-year-old Serbian needed one hour and 36 minutes to beat Coric, now world No. 19, who reached the final after beating the defending champion, Roger Federer of Switzerland, who in turn will fall to world No. 3 when the ATP rankings are released on Monday.
I think it was a really good week for me, from basically me thinking on Monday morning I'm going to fly out on Monday evening after my first match [against Stan Wawrinka] to playing my first Masters 1000 final.
Djokovic, who has already booked his place alongside Nadal, Juan Martin, Roger Federer and Alexander Zverev at the prestigious Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at The O2 in the English capital from 11-18 November, finished as the year-end No. 1 in 2011-12, 2014-15.
In the second set Coric battled hard to stay in the game, saving three match points at 5-4, helped by a woeful smash from Djokovic.
During the week in China's commercial capital city, the expected Djokovic/Federer finals did not materialize after the top seeded players had been beaten in earlier rounds.
"I was looking up to him since I was really, really young", he said, calling the upset over Federer one of his best results.
The second set followed a similar pattern and, while Coric improved, he was unable to deny Djokovic a fourth Shanghai Masters title.
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"The success over the last three or four months has been terrific for me".
The 21-year-old looked to be becoming increasingly frustrated by Djokovic's ability to consistently return even the most measured shots, although he stood his ground in a marathon third game.
"He is probably the best player in the world right now".
After recovering from an injury, Novak Djokovic says he needed to "reinvent" himself. "I'm feeling good on the court".
"I could not ask for a better scenario", Djokovic, who last topped the rankings two years ago.
"I'm just happy with the whole week".
He would have to reach the final - playing five matches - at either tournament to overhaul his 215-point deficit to Nadal.