Trained as a journalist, Shi Lihong initially wrote articles for the English language China Daily. She then studied film at Berkeley where she became interested in observational documentaries of Barbara Koppel who recorded the organization of coal miners in the Harlan County, and Ogawa Shinsuke who documented the struggle of farmers in Japan to prevent the expansion of Tokyo's Narita airport in the 1970s.
Back in China, Shi Lihong worked with her husband Xi Zhinong on a documentary about the endangered snub-nosed monkeys in the mountains for Yunnan province beginning in 1996. Their work exposed plans for logging in the monkey's habitat and launched the first of a series of national campaigns to protect endangered wildlife. The film also marked the beginning of their company Wild China Film, based in Beijing.
Beginning in 2004, Shi Lihong began filming a grass roots environmental movement in China that united farmers and urban activists, ultimately halting the construction of a massive dam along the Nu River. The result, a short documentary titled "Voice of an Angry River," revealed the desperate poverty of farmers along the Mekong River displaced 20 years earlier. Footage from her work appears in "Waking the Green Tiger: The Rise of a Green Movement in China."