With the Communist seizure of power in China in 1949, popular music was considered ideologically suspect and Chen was labeled a rightist and imprisoned in a laogai for "reform through labor" in 1957. He died soon after at the age of 47.
Chen was the composer of famous mid-20th century popular standards as Shanghai Nights (夜上海) and The Blossom of Youth (花樣年華), both sung by Zhou Xuan. His song Rose, Rose, I Love You, sung by American singer Frankie Laine in 1951, is the only major popular music hit in the United States by a Chinese composer. When Chen's youngest son went to the United States for advanced education, he was able to meet Laine and thereafter maintained a correspondence. Another of his songs, Wishing You Happiness and Prosperity, originally written to celebrate the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War, has become a popular Chinese New Year standard. His music continues to be performed and is featured in films such as Eros.