By 2002, China's prevalence of overweight and obesity among adults was 18.9 and 2.9%, respectively. The replacement of traditional Chinese diet with ‘Western diet’, major declines in all phases of activity and increased sedentary activity are cited as the main reasons explaining the rapid increase in overweight and obesity, which bring major economic and health costs. The Nutrition Improvement Work Management Approach was released in 2010. Overweight and obesity prevention-related policies were added to national planning for disease prevention and control. The Guidelines for Prevention and Control of Overweight and Obesity of Chinese Adults and the School-age Children and Teenagers Overweight and Obesity Prevention and Control Guidelines in China were promulgated in 2003 and 2007, respectively. Few education programmes have been implemented. Selected academic intervention research projects dominate with a focus on reducing child obesity and promoting healthier diets; increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary time; and facilitating changes in family, school, social and cultural environments. Intervention samples are small and have not addressed the increasing rates of obesity throughout the entire population. Government provision of effective policy measures, multisectoral cooperation and increasing corporate social responsibility are keys to curbing the trend towards overweight and obesity in China.