An N-terminal fragment of the E2 gene of classical swine fever (CSF) virus encoding major immunogenic sites was amplified by RT-PCR directly from 110 clinical specimens representing 109 epizootic sites during the last decade in China. Phylogenetic relationships between these viruses as well as 20 reference strains were determined by comparison of their nucleotide sequences. A phylogenetic tree showed that 103 of the 110 field viruses (93.6%) were clustered within group 2 and subdivided into three subgroups, while the remaining seven viruses (6.4%), along with two Chinese reference strains, Shimen and HCLV (attenuated vaccine strain), were clustered into subgroup 1.1 within group 1. However, none of the Chinese CSF viruses were members of subgroup 1.2 (represented by reference strain Brescia). This is the first report on the distribution of CSF virus genotypes in China. Results indicated that CSF viruses predominating in recent epizootics within China are genetically divergent from the reference strain Shimen and the vaccine strain HCLV.