Hongyu joined UNRISD in May 2004 to work on the research project "Social Policy in a Development Context ", focusing on commercialization of health care and developmental welfare state in East Asia. Her research interests included the impact of transnational corporations in developing countries and corporate-government relations.
After completing her BA in Italian Studies and Economics from the Beijing Foreign Studies University, Hongyu began her Master's study at the Elliott School of International Affairs of the George Washington University in the US, with a concentration on International Business and Finance, and a regional focus on European and Eurasian Studies. She also studied at the University of Milan with a scholarship provided by the Ministry of External Affairs of Italy. Before joining UNRISD, Hongyu worked for joint ventures and international firms in China, nonprofit organizations in the US, as well as an international consulting and financial advisory firm in Washington DC specializing in development business and international project management, working closely with the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and other multilateral lending agencies.