Zhao Shangzhi was born in Chaoyang, Liaoning Province, China. He participated in the "May 30 Movement movement" in 1925, and joined the Communist Party of China in the same year. In November 1925, he went to study in the Whampoa Military Academy in Guangzhou.
After September 18, 1932 he took the charge of the CPC Manchuria military. In October 1933, he was in charge of Zhuhe anti-Japan guerrillas, and was promoted to commander of the Northeast Anti-Japan United Army in 1934.
On February 12, 1942, he was captured by Japanese military police after being attacked by an agent provocateur, and died later at the age of 34.
To memorialize him, the city of Zhuhe where he used to fight against the Japanese was renamed to Shangzhi.