As a youngster, Li Shuai was encouraged by his father to start his football career with the Qingdao Hademen youth team. In the 2002 league season, Li was promoted to the senior team and made his debut for the top tier club on 1 September 2002 against Beijing Guoan in a 4-1 defeat. After several seasons as a reserve choice goalkeeper, Li would start to rise to prominence by playing in twenty-three league games throughout the 2005 league campaign as he established himself as the club's first choice goalkeeper. The following season for Li was to prove unsuccessful with Qingdao as they flirted with relegation. He also found himself playing a significantly smaller role within the team by playing in only thirteen games within the season.
At the beginning of the 2007 league season, Li transferred to Guangzhou Pharmaceutical who were in the second tier. After only one season with the team, he quickly established himself as the first choice goalkeeper and saw Guangzhou immediately promoted into the Chinese Super League after winning the division. Within the top tier again, Li would make sure the club were midtable regulars for the next several seasons until at the end of the 2009 league season the club were relegated for match-fixing, which occurred in 2006 before he joined the club. Despite this, Li remained loyal towards the club and he went on to make his 100th appearance for Guangzhou in a 2–1 home win over Yanbian FC on 18 September 2010.