A descendant of Li Hongzhang, Li graduated from the University of Shanghai in 1952, and entered the foreign ministry of PRC. From 1952 to 1983, he was an official of the international section of the Ministry and was promoted to vice section chief. In 1983, Li became the vice delegate to Geneva. From 1984 to 1988, Li served as the international section chief of the foreign ministry. In 1988, he became the assistant to the Foreign Minister. From 1990 to 1993, he was the delegate and ambassador to United Nations. From 1993 to 1998, Li served as the PRC's ambassador to the United States. From 1998, Li served in the National People's Congress until his retirement in 2004.