He rose from the ranks of a Communist Party youth group in Hong Kong to be a vice-chairman of the national legislature but Cheng Siwei, who died in Beijing on Sunday aged 80, will be best remembered as the "godfather" of venture capital on the mainland. Cheng, whose career spanned chemistry, economics and politics, is credited as one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Nasdaq-style ChiNext, a bourse developed to channel venture capital into innovative and fast-growing enterprises, especially hi-tech companies. Cheng was born in Beijing in June 1935 and moved to Hong Kong in 1948, but returned to the mainland to work three years later at age 16. He went on to study at various colleges, including the East China Institute of Chemical Technology, and graduated in the late 1950s with a degree in inorganic chemistry. Cheng started his engineering career in government in 1958 and rose to become the deputy director of what was then the Ministry of Chemical Industry in 1994. A turning point came in 1981 when he went to the University of California, Los Angeles, to pursue a master's degree in business administration and began to research the concept of venture capital. Cheng returned to China to promote the idea and, in 1998, presented a groundbreaking proposal to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference on the need to set up a venture capital market. He was chairman of the China Democratic National Construction Association.