Born in Dongyang, Zhejiang Province, Zhang graduated from Institute of Military Engineering in Harbin in 1970, majoring in internal combustion engine of ship. He then served in 6214 factory affiliated to 6th ministry of mechanics for long time. He joined Communist Party of China in 1973. In 1985, he was appointed as vice mayor of Jiujiang, Jiangxi Province. Next year he was appointed as administrative governor of Ganzhou area. In 1991, he was promoted to governor assistant of Jiangxi, and became vice governor in 1993. He was appointed as vice Chairman of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in 1995. Zhang was transferred to Hunan in 1998 and appointed as vice secretary of CPC Hunan committee and secretary of Changsha municipal committee. He became acting governor of Hunan in 2001, and governor the next year.