Whether high or low self-esteem is associated with increased aggression remains a topic of debate. The majority has argued that aggression is linked to low self-esteem, though this stance has been disputed by others. The present study aimed to explore the relationship between aggression and self-esteem by meta-analysis to provide conclusive evidence on this debate. Fifty-two studies were included, with a total of 82,358 Chinese student participants. The results suggested a medium negative correlation between aggression and self-esteem (r = − .21, 95% confidence interval [− .23, − .17]). Analysis of aggression sub-factors showed that almost all subtypes, except verbal aggression (i.e., physical aggression, anger, hostility, and implicit and explicit aggression), were negatively correlated with self-esteem. Moderator analyses suggested that various study and participant characteristics (i.e., subject group, sample size, and aggression assessment instrument) influenced the strength of the association between self-esteem and aggression.