Serum uric acid (SUA) is associated with many cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension (HTN) and metabolic syndrome (MetS). However, the association of SUA with atherosclerosis remains controversial. Our aim was to investigate the relationships of SUA with HTN, MetS and atherosclerosis in Chinese inpatients with type 2 diabetes. This cross-sectional study was performed with a sample of 2388 hospitalized Chinese patients with type 2 diabetes. Both carotid and lower limb atherosclerotic lesions were assessed for intima-media thickness, plaque and stenosis by Doppler ultrasound. Atherosclerotic plaque and stenosis were defined as the presence of either carotid or lower limb plaques and stenoses, respectively. There were significant increases in the prevalence of both HTN and MetS across the SUA quartiles (HTN: 43.4, 49.6, 56.1 and 66.3% for the first, second, third and fourth quartiles, respectively, P < 0.001; MetS: 59.9, 68.8, 74.7 and 84.9% for the first, second, third and fourth quartiles, respectively, P < 0.001). A fully adjusted multiple logistic regression analysis revealed that SUA quartile was independently associated with the presence of HTN (P = 0.001) and MetS (P = 0.006). The prevalence of atherosclerotic plaque and stenosis was obviously higher in the patients with either HTN or MetS than in those without HTN or MetS. However, there was no significant association of SUA quartile with the presence of atherosclerotic lesions. SUA levels were closely associated with HTN and MetS, but not with atherosclerosis in type 2 diabetes. Our findings strongly suggest that, in select populations such as those with type 2 diabetes, the role of uric acid in atherosclerosis might be attributable to other cardiovascular risk factors, such as HTN and MetS.