The objective of this study was to examine the effect of socioeconomic development on secular trend in height among children and adolescents in China. Body height and spermarcheal/menarcheal ages were obtained from two periodic large-scale national representative surveys in China between 1975 and 2010. Chinese socioeconomic development indicators were obtained from the United Nations world population prospects. The effects of plausible determinants were assessed by partial least-squares regression. The average height of children and adolescents improved in tandem with socioeconomic development, without any tendency to plateau. The increment of height trend presented larger around puberty than earlier or later ages. The partial least-squares regressions with gross national income, life expectancy and spermarcheal/menarcheal age accounted for increment of height trend from 88.3% to 98.3% for males and from 82.9% to 97.3% for females in adolescence. Further, through the analysis of the variable importance for projection, the contributions of gross national income and life expectancy on height increment were confirmed to be significant in childhood and adolescence, and the contribution of spermarcheal/menarcheal age was superior to both of them in adolescence. We concluded that positive secular trend in height in China was significantly associated with socioeconomic status (GNI as indicator) and medical and health conditions (life expectancy as indicator). Earlier onset of spermarche and menarche proved to be an important role in larger increment of the trend over time of height at puberty for a population.