UNLABELLED BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES：More than 30 years of socioeconomic development in China has improved living conditions which contributed to a steep decline in malnutrition prevalence of children under 5 years. To elucidate the role of socioeconomic development in improving nutritional status and to identify appropriate policy priorities for intervention in nutrition improvement for younger children. METHODS AND STUDY DESIGN We collected data on socioeconomic development, education, cultural and recreational services, food consumption, average family size and malnutrition prevalence from national surveys. RESULTS From 1990 to 2010, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita increased from 1644 Chinese Yuan (CNY) to 30,015 CNY; average disposable income and food expenditure per capita significantly increased in urban and rural areas; per capita consumption for education increased from 112 CNY to 1628 CNY and from 15.3 CNY to 367 CNY for other cultural services; illiteracy rate decreased from 15.9% to 4.1%; average family size from 3.97 to 3.10; and prevalence of stunting and underweight decreased from 33.1% to 9.9% and 13.7% to 3.6%, respectively. However, anaemia prevalence did not obviously decline between 1992 and 2000. After adjusting confounding effects of variables, negative relationships were observed between GDP per capita, average family size and stunting or underweight prevalence. However, no association was observed between illiteracy rate and prevalence of stunting and underweight, and there was no correlation between GDP per capita, illiteracy rate, average family size and anaemia prevalence. CONCLUSIONS Our results indicated that economic development cannot solve all nutritional problems and comprehensive national developmental strategies should be considered to combat malnutrition.