A citizen of China, Zhang earned B.S. in mathematics from Nankai University, China; M.S. in economics from Tianjin University of Economics and Finance, China; and M.S. and Ph.D. in applied economics and management from Cornell University in January 2000.
Zhang joined IFPRI in 1998. He has published widely in the fields of economic growth, income distribution, public investment and rural industrialization in China and other developing countries. He is a Co-editor of Chinese Economic Review. He was selected as the president of Chinese Economists Society from 2005 to 2006.
He presented "Sex Ratios and Saving Rates: Evidence from Ëxcess Men in China" at the 2009 CESI, a paper he co-authored with Shang-Jin Wei.