Regarded as an emerging diarrheal micropathogen, Vibrio cholerae serogroup O139 was first identified in 1992 and has become an important cause of cholera epidemics over the last two decades. O139 strains have been continually isolated since O139 cholera appeared in China in 1993, from sporadic cases and dispersed foodborne outbreaks, which are the common epidemic types of O139 cholera in China. Antibiotic resistance profiles of these epidemic strains are required for development of clinical treatments, epidemiological studies and disease control. In this study, a comprehensive investigation of the antibiotic resistance of V. cholerae O139 strains isolated in China from 1993 to 2009 was conducted. The initial O139 isolates were resistant to streptomycin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole and polymyxin B only, while multidrug resistance increased suddenly and became common in strains isolated after 1998. Different resistance profiles were observed in the isolates from different years. In contrast, most V. cholerae O1 strains isolated in the same period were much less resistant to these antibiotics and no obvious multidrug resistance patterns were detected. Most of the non-toxigenic strains isolated from the environment and seafood were resistant to four antibiotics or fewer, although a few multidrug resistant strains were also identified. These toxigenic O139 strains exhibited a high prevalence of the class I integron and the SXT element, which were rare in the non-toxigenic strains. Molecular subtyping of O139 strains showed highly diverse pulsed-field gel electrophoresis patterns, which may correspond to the epidemic state of sporadic cases and small-scale outbreaks and complex resistance patterns. Severe multidrug resistance, even resistance transfers based on mobile antibiotic resistance elements, increases the probability of O139 cholera as a threat to public health. Therefore, continual epidemiological and antibiotic sensitivity surveillance should focus on the occurrence of multidrug resistance and frequent microbial population shifts in O139 strains.