Little is known about self-management among people with Type 2 diabetes living in mainland China. Understanding the experiences of this target population is needed to provide socioculturally relevant education to effectively promote self-management. The aim of this study was to explore perceived barriers and facilitators to diabetes self-management for both older community dwellers and health professionals in China. Four focus groups, two for older people with diabetes and two for health professionals, were conducted. All participants were purposively sampled from two communities in Shanghai, China. Six barriers were identified: overdependence on but dislike of western medicine, family role expectations, cuisine culture, lack of trustworthy information sources, deficits in communication between clients and health professionals, and restriction of reimbursement regulations. Facilitators included family and peer support, good relationships with health professionals, simple and practical instruction and a favourable community environment. The findings provide valuable information for diabetes self-management intervention development in China, and have implications for programmes tailored to populations in similar sociocultural circumstances.