Chun-Li is presented as a woman with a strong sense of justice, and her motives for fighting crime range from avenging the death of her father to protecting innocents. She especially cares for kids, showing repulse for the use of brainwashed young girls in Street Fighter Alpha 3 or the kidnap of a kid in Street Fighter III: Third Strike. In the latter game she decides she will teach her fighting style and philosophy to kids. Chun-Li is an expert martial arts practitioner. She started training in several styles of Chinese kempo ("Chinese martial arts") at the age of 5, especially tai chi chuan, which she would later complement with sanda (combat wushu) and fighting styles from all around the world, such as taekwondo, combat karate and capoeira. Related to her police job, she is also a very skilled firearm user, her game profiles stating that she has at least once achieved a 6th place in an international shooting competition. Chun-Li has also been noted in-universe for her fluent English, investigating skills, penetrating eyes, beauty and acting talent for deception.
Chun-Li was introduced in 1991 in the original Street Fighter II as the franchise's first female character, an undercover Interpol agent seeking to avenge the death of her father at the hands of M. Bison and his criminal organization. Upon Bison's defeat, she fulfills her revenge and decides to return to her life as an ordinary girl; Super Street Fighter II allows players to choose this ending or another in which she remains a police officer. Street Fighter Alpha prequel series built upon her backstory, while Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike shows her retired and teaching martial arts to young children, only to be forced to return to law enforcement after one of her students is abducted by Urien. Chun-Li returns in Street Fighter IV, where her in-game narrative shows her at crossroads in her life, eventually returning to both street fighting and law enforcement.
In Street Fighter EX, a non-canon spin-off series produced by Street Fighter II creator Akira Nishitani, Chun-Li is a police officer investigating Shadaloo in search of her missing father. She has also made appearances in many other Capcom-produced fighting games, including all titles of the long-running series Marvel vs. Capcom (ever since X-Men vs. Street Fighter, including Shadow Lady, a dark version of Chun-Li that underwent harsh experiments on Bison's orders) and Capcom vs. SNK, and in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars and Street Fighter X Tekken. She and Ryu are the only Street Fighter characters to appear in every Capcom crossover title, including the SNK vs. Capcom fighting game series by SNK and the tactical role-playing games Namco × Capcom and Project X Zone by Namco. Often, Chun-Li is either continuing her existing story from Street Fighter II or seeking to arrest the other characters in the game that she sees as suspicious.
In addition, Chun-Li appears in the versus puzzle games Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo and Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix, and in the pachinko slot game Chun-Li Ni Makase China!, the first game that featured her in a starring role. She also has cameos in Final Fight 2, Breath of Fire and Mega Man 9, as well as in Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams (an alternate costume for Ohatsu) and in Sony's LittleBigPlanet (a DLC for Sackgirl).