Madame Chen Zhili is a prominent academic and leader in China. A native of Fujian province, she graduated from Fudan University in 1964 and completed her postgraduate studies at the Shanghai Institute of Silicate of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Her work in physics brought her to Penn State University as a visiting scholar from 1980 to 1982, before she returned to the Shanghai Institute.
She was head of the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Shanghai Municipal Committee in 1984-1989; and a member of the Standing Committee in 1988-1989.
A leader in her community, she was appointed deputy director of the State Education Commission in 1997. In 1998, she was appointed minister of education.
Chen served as state councilor of the State Council from 2003-2008. She was an alternate member of the 13th and 14th CPC Central Committees and a member of the 15th and 16th CPC Central Committees. She was a member of the 17th CPC Central Committee and a vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the 11th National People's Congress.
Chen served as vice-president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad and mayor of the Beijing Olympic (Paralympic) Village.
In 2008, she was elected president of the All-China Women’s Federation, and in 2010 she was elected chairman of the Children’s Foundation of China.