Hu Shuli was born into a family of prominent journalists and publishers. During the Cultural Revolution, however, her family fell out of political favor, and while in her mid-teens Hu, along with her parents, was sent to work in the countryside. She joined the army in 1970, and after the Cultural Revolution ended, she gained entrance to China’s Renmin University in Beijing. After graduating with a degree in journalism, Hu worked as a reporter for the Worker’s Daily. She was awarded a World Press Institute fellowship in 1987 that allowed her to study at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. Returning to China, she participated in the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrations of 1989.
She later joined the staff of the China Business Times, becoming chief of the newspaper’s international desk in 1995. With the financial backing of a group of US-educated Chinese businessmen, Hu launched Caijing in 1998. Under her editorial guidance, Caijing quickly became known for its hard-hitting journalism. Frequently referred to as “the most dangerous woman in China” because of her emphasis on aggressive investigative reporting, she consistently pushed the limits of press freedom in her country, publishing articles that ranged from exposés of bribery and deceitful business practices to well-researched critiques of government policy. Since leaving Caijing in 2009, Hu has joined the faculty of the School of Mass Communication and Design at Zhongshan University in Guangzhou and started two new publications, China Reform and Century Weekly.