A former executive of the Chinese Petroleum Corporation, Lee was Minister of Economic Affairs under President Chiang Ching-kuo and continued to advise the Republic of China government under Chiang's successor, Lee Teng-hui. Lee married Chung Chiang-shen and had two sons. Prior to entering government, Lee was chairman of the state-owned Chinese Petroleum Corporation and oversaw the ROC government's petroleum monopoly.
His tenure led to his appointment by Chiang Ching-kuo to the presidential cabinet, where he served as Minister of Economic Affairs through Chiang's death in 1988. The beginning of Lee's term was marked by growing pressure from the United States to reduce tariffs and trade barriers amidst a growing trade deficit in the U.S. As head of the ROC's economic policy, Lee presided over the gradual liberalization that characterized the later years of Chiang Ching-kuo's administration while balancing relations with the U.S. His refusal to allow the NT dollar to appreciate against the U.S. dollar, however, caused further friction with the American government and raised the threat of trade sanctions in 1987. He continued to assist the KMT administration under Lee Teng-hui as National Policy Advisor.
Lee also served as chairman of the country's largest research institute, the Industrial Technology Research Institute. In 1995, shortly before his death, he released his autobiography, "石油一生" ("Oil as My Life").