Cropland abandonment has increasingly occurred in China, which potentially affects national food and ecological security. This study collected existing publications focusing on cropland abandonment. Then, we extracted the key characteristics of cropland abandonment events, including time, location, magnitude, and driving force. The meta-analysis was carried out on these items to disclose the spatio-temporal pattern and main drivers of cropland abandonment in China in the last three decades. We found that there were a total of 163 counties in which cropland abandonment occurred according to the existing literature. These counties were mostly located in southern China and, in particular, exhibited a pattern of a T-shape on 90 degree anticlockwise rotation. The vertical axis exhibited a north-south belt across southeastern Gansu Province, eastern Sichuan Province, Chongqing, western Guizhou Province, and northern Yunnan Province. The horizontal axis exhibited a west-east belt along the middle to lower reaches of the Yangtze River across southern Hubei Province, northern Hunan Province,w and central to southern Anhui Province. In the provinces of Hunan, Sichuan, and Anhui, cropland abandonment can be found in 24, 23, and 21 counties, respectively; in Hubei, Chongqing, Fujian, Gansu, and Yunnan provincial-level areas, there are more than 10 counties with cropland abandonment. The formation of the “T” structure underwent two stages. Before 2010, there were 102 counties with cropland abandonment that mainly existed along the middle to lower reaches of the Yangtze River, where the horizontal axis occurred. Since 2010, there have been 63 counties with cropland abandonment, mostly existing in the north-south belt from southeastern Gansu to northern Guizhou, where the vertical axis occurred. The spatio-temporal patterns of cropland abandonment events matched well with the labor emigration from agriculture in the context of regional economic development and industrial restructuring. The low economic efficiency of agriculture and the shortage of agricultural labor are two common drivers leading to cropland abandonment in 86% and 78% of counties, respectively.