The prevalence of impaired fasting glucose (IFG) and diabetes mellitus (DM) has reportedly increased significantly among Chinese children and adolescents. We aimed to examine the prevalence of IFG and DM, the disparities in sex and region and related risk factors among Chinese children and adolescents. A total of 16 434 Chinese children aged 6–17 years were selected from a national cross-sectional survey, and fasting glucose was measured for all participants. Overall, mean fasting plasma glucose (FPG) concentration was (4·64 (sd 0·51)) mmol/l, and the prevalence of DM and IFG was 0·10 and 1·89 %, respectively. Compared with girls, boys had higher FPG concentration (4·69 v. 4·58 mmol/l, r 0·107, P<0·001) and IFG prevalence (2·67 v. 1·07 %, rφ 0·059, P<0·001). Compared with rural children and adolescents, urban children and adolescent had higher FPG concentration (4·65 v. 4·62 mmol/l, r 0·029, P<0·001) and DM prevalence (0·15 v. 0·05 %, rφ 0·016, P<0·01). In addition, self-reported fried foods intake and overweight/obesity were positively associated with IFG, and the proportion of consuming fried foods more than or equal to once per week and overweight/obesity prevalence in boys and urban children and adolescents were significantly higher than girls and rural children and adolescents, respectively (P<0·05). Although the prevalence of IFG and DM was relatively low in Chinese children and adolescents, sex and region disparities were observed, which may be associated with differences in overweight/obesity prevalence and dietary factors.