With the changing lifestyle and the acceleration of aging in the Chinese population, the incidence and mortality of colorectal cancer (CRC) have risen in the last decades. On the contrary, the incidence and mortality of CRC have continued to decline in the USA since the 1980s, which is mainly attributed to early screening and standardized diagnosis and treatment. Rectal cancer accounts for the largest proportion of CRC in China, and its treatment regimens are complex. At present, surgical treatment is still the most important treatment for rectal cancer. Since the first Chinese guideline for diagnosis and treatment of CRC was issued in 2010, the fourth version has been revised in 2020. These guidelines have greatly promoted the standardization and internationalization of CRC diagnosis and treatment in China. And with the development of comprehensive treatment methods such as neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy, the post-operative quality of life and prognosis of patients with rectal cancer have improved. We believe that the inflection point of the rising incidence and mortality of rectal cancer will appear in the near future in China. This article reviewed the current status and research progress on surgical therapy of rectal cancer in China.