After completing high school at the age of 18, he started off by raising bees and built up a very successful honey business.
In three years he managed to save 10 000 yuan, a substantial amount at that time. However his business only really took off when China began to implement security reforms years later. Recognizing the importance of the stock market to Chinese economic development, Chen obtained a license and began to trade stocks on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. He was among the first group of private entrepreneurs to purchase state-sector enterprises, investing in six bankrupt state-owned factories in Shanghai in 1992. Using the financial market as leverage, Chen subsequently built up a food and beverage business. In 2000, in partnership with local government in Heilongjiang Province, he invested 300 million yuan (US$36 million) in the development of a new mineral water product line, which had a design capacity of 300 000 to 500 000 tons annually in three years. Chen’s flagship enterprise, Kingsea Group, is a large corporation with thousands of employees and many subsidiaries, including a joint venture in textiles with a Taiwanese investor, and joint investments in property development with a number of local Chinese governments.
The Kingsea Group was initially to be listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, but Chen eventually withdrew from the Hong Kong listing, fearing the market there was not stable. The company later merged with a Singapore-listed company and became one of the first Chinese firms to list abroad in 2003. More recently, however, the company ran into some serious financial difficulties. Although a well-known enterprise, Kingsea Group was revealed by a court paper in 2006 as top debtor among 20 defaulters, with three debts of 677 600 yuan (US$85 017).