Insufficient clean freshwater has exacerbated water scarcity in China, especially in southern coastal regions where the economy is active and highly populated. Seawater is an important supplement of water source in China, and seawater desalination has been developed as a strategic and influential industry. This review systematically analyzed the status quo of industrialized desalination technology, and evaluated the trend of seawater desalination industry in China. We first presented a statistical analysis and roadmap of the whole development course of seawater desalination industry, and the contemporary industrial practice of desalination technology was summarized, including reverse osmosis, electrodialysis, forward osmosis, multiple-effect distillation and multi-stage flash, along with their relevant engineering installation as milestones. The matrix comparison of their scale, quantity and integration was specifically highlighted. Factors leading to the historical development of these desalination technologies in China were critically analyzed. Current trend of integrating the renewable energy was described. Finally, the constraints for further development of desalination production scale were explored and the potential countermeasures were proposed. This review presents a detailed database for Chinese seawater desalination industry and serves as a comprehensive and critical analysis for unique status of desalination in regions where water is abundant, but clean water is scarce.