High-risk (HR) human papillomavirus (HPV) prevalence has been shown to correlate well with cervical cancer incidence rates. Our study aimed to estimate the prevalence of HR-HPV and cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) in China and indirectly informs on the cervical cancer burden in the country. A total of 30,207 women from 17 population-based studies throughout China were included. All women received HPV DNA testing (HC2, Qiagen, Gaithersburg, MD), visual inspection with acetic acid and liquid-based cytology. Women positive for any test received colposcopy-directed or four-quadrant biopsies. A total of 29,579 women had HR-HPV testing results, of whom 28,761 had biopsy confirmed (9,019, 31.4%) or assumed (19,742, 68.6%) final diagnosis. Overall crude HR-HPV prevalence was 17.7%. HR-HPV prevalence was similar in rural and urban areas but showed dips in different age groups: at age 25–29 (11.3%) in rural and at age 35–39 (11.3%) in urban women. In rural and urban women, age-standardized CIN2 prevalence was 1.5% [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.4–1.6%] and 0.7% (95% CI: 0.7–0.8%) and CIN3+ prevalence was 1.2% (95% CI: 1.2–1.3%) and 0.6% (95% CI: 0.5–0.7%), respectively. Prevalence of CIN3+ as a percentage of either all women or HR-HPV-positive women steadily increased with age, peaking in 45- to 49-year-old women. High prevalence of HR-HPV and CIN3+ was detected in both rural and urban China. The steady rise of CIN3+ up to the age group of 45–49 is attributable to lack of lesion removal through screening. Our findings document the inadequacy of current screening in China while indirectly raising the possibility that the cervical cancer burden in China is underreported.