Fatty liver (steatosis) is highly prevalent in China and is more often linked to obesity than to alcoholism. Among more affluent regions of China, the community prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is approximately 15%. With the increasing pandemic of obesity, the prevalence of NAFLD has approximately doubled in the past decade. The risk factors resemble those in other ethnic populations, but it is important to note that ethnic-specific definitions of central obesity, obesity and metabolic syndrome are more useful in assessment of Chinese people. The full range of histological manifestations of NAFLD has been demonstrated in Chinese patients, but to date hepatic severity is generally mild. In contrast to chronic hepatitis C, steatosis is less common in patients with chronic hepatitis B; it is associated with metabolic, and not viral factors and does not appear to affect disease severity. Although long-term outcomes of NAFLD in Chinese populations remain unclear, it may be a predictor of metabolic disorders, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Public health interventions are therefore indicated to halt or reverse the national trend of obesity in China so as to improve liver as well as metabolic health.