Background: Birth weight is negatively associated with cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, but the associations are less well-established in developing populations where birth weight is often unavailable. We studied the association of birth weight and cardiovascular risk, using birth rank as an instrumental variable, in Southern China. Methods: We used published data on birth weight by birth rank from an appropriate population and baseline data from the Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study phases 2 & 3 (2005-8) to examine the adjusted associations, using instrumental variable analysis, of birth weight with clinically measured cardiovascular risk factors and the metabolic syndrome in older (>= 50 years) men (n = 5,051) and women (n = 13,907). Results: Estimated birth weight was associated with lower blood pressure (systolic -0.25 mm Hg 95% confidence interval (CI), -0.53 to 0.03 and diastolic -0.33 mm Hg 95% CI -0.48 to -0.18 per standard deviation higher birth weight), but had little association with glucose, lipids, waist-hip ratio, body mass index or the metabolic syndrome, adjusted for age, sex, early environment and number of offspring. Conclusion: Birth weight may impact blood pressure; however associations of birth weight with other cardiovascular risk factors may not be related to foetal exposures, but speculatively could be an historical co-incidence, with corresponding implications for prevention.