He traveled to Japan on a scholarship to the Tokyo Shimbu Gakko, and subsequently graduated from 9th class of the Imperial Japanese Army Academy, with a specialty in the cavalry in 1909.
On his return to China, he joined the pro-republican forces in Nanjing during the Xinhai Revolution. After the foundation of the Republic of China, in 1914 he became an instructor at the Baoding Military Academy, where he soon caught the attention of Admiral Sheng Hung Leih, who appointed him to his staff He participated in the Zhili–Anhui War in 1920 and the First Zhili–Fengtian War of 1923.
After the death of Manchurian warlord Zhang Zuolin, Zang supported the Chinese Reunification Movement, and was appointed governor of Liaoning Province in 1930.
After the Mukden Incident, Zang initially refused to cooperate with the Imperial Japanese Army and was imprisoned. However, he later decided to defect, and was re-appointed governor of Liaoning Province (renamed Fengtien Province) on 16 December 1931.
He was part of the North Eastern Administrative Committee or "Self-Government Guiding Board" that made plans for a new State of Manchukuo to be established in February 1932. In 1932, Zang was re-appointed governor of Fengtian Province of Manchukuo, a position he retained after the administrative reorganization of the provinces of Manchukuo from four to ten provinces in October 1934.
In March, 1935, he was Emperor Puyi"s first choice to replace Zheng Xiaoxu as Prime Minister of Manchukuo, (although Zhang Jinghui was appointed instead at the insistence of the Japanese Kwantung Army leadership).
From 21 May 1935, Zang served in the largely ceremonial role as Speaker of the Manchukuo Senate – a post which he held until the collapse of Manchukuo in August 1945. He later also served as Vice Minister for Home Affairs. In 1940, Zang was appointed ambassador to the Reorganized National Government of China headed by Wang Jingwei.
Following the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, he declared an emergency session of the Manchukuo legislature to promulgated the abdication of Emperor Puyi on 17 August 1945, effective 18 August, and attempted to open negotiation with the Soviet Union.
However, the Manchukuo capital of Hsinking fell to the Red Army on 20 August 1945, and Zang was captured on 30 August. He was initially held in custody in Siberia, but was extradited to the People"s Republic of China in 1950, where he died of illness in captivity at the War Criminals Management Centre in Fushun, Liaoning, on 13 November 1956.
He rose to Chief of staff for the Kuomintang forces in Kirin Province. Together with Yan Yuting, he subsequently became Chief of staff of the business administration section of the Kuomintang National Revolutionary Army headquarters in Nanjing.