Xu received his bachelors degree from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing in 1983. For the next four years he was engaged in some artistic work at Peking University, where he befriended Yu Minhong (Michael Yu), an English teacher who co-founded the New Oriental School with Xu ten years later. In late 1987 Xu went to the USA to pursue graduate studies and in 1989 he received a MA from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.
After working for several years in North America, Xu returned to China in 1993, intending to create his own business. However Xu suffered a setback, having linked up with a dishonest partner, and had to go back to Canada, although he had not abandoned the idea of owning his own business. Three years later, at the age of 40, Xu received an invitation from Yu Minhong, and after the New Oriental Advisory Service was formally established in Beijing, Xu’s life changed completely. In the 1990s when the NOS was struggling, Xu was responsible for company marketing, public and government relations. With his excellent English and eloquent presentation skills, Xu soon became a notable person in Chinese education circles, where enthusiasm for studying abroad was booming.
Xu’s competence played a vital role in the development of NOS. After ten years of rapid growth, the New Oriental Education & Technology Group (NOETG), as the largest private education institution in China, was listed successfully on the New York Stock Exchange on 7 September 2006. Developed from the Beijing New Oriental School, the NOETG is a multi-business group, whose interests include education training, education research and development, press publishing, audio and video publishing, overseas study service, vocational training, online education, R&D for education software and so on. NOETG has 37 schools, 149 study centers, 19 bookstores and approximately 2700 teachers in 35 cities nationwide; the company had trained about 4.5 million students by the end of 2006.