Li Chi was a colourful character who played a major part in two Biggles stories, the short story The Oriental Touch and the novel Biggles Delivers the Goods. A pirate and a smuggler, Li Chi was a thorn in the side of the British in Southeast Asia but ended up as a valuable ally during the Second World War.
Biggles first met Li Chi when he picked up a half-dead man from the sea. Li Chi had been captured by a British sloop Cormorant but had escaped by jumping overboard. He tricked Biggles into thinking that he was Hoi Sing and persuaded him to take him to Penang to fetch some money and clothes before taking him to meet with his shipwrecked crew hiding on an island in the Mergui Archipelago. He asked Biggles to ferry him and his crew in several hops to Raffa Island where Li Chi then attacked and captured a junk. At the time Biggles believed he was helping Hoi Sing recapture his ship from the pirate Li Chi. It turned out to be the other way around: Li Chi captured Hoi Sing's ship and killed him. As a reward, Biggles was presented with two valuable pink pearls which he sold in Paris for £8,000. Li Chi would tell Biggles later that they should have been worth £12,000.
In Biggles Delivers the Goods, set during the Second World War, Li Chi made a proposal to the British government: he had amassed a secret cache of some 5,000 tons of raw rubber which he had hidden away on Elephant Island in the Mergui Archipelago. The British could have the rubber if they would come and collect it. Biggles and his squadron was called in, and Li Chi would prove to be a reliable and resourceful ally in the subsequent operation. His large labour force of workmen and sailors built a wooden floating runway in a lake for Biggles' transport aircraft. He then accompanied Biggles to Shansie to effect introductions with Major Marling, a reclusive Englishman who also had a load of rubber to offer. Li Chi and a team of sailors/pirates led the way in a boarding action to capture a Japanese freighter, the Sumatran, an episode which he told Biggles was "like old times". Li Chi then sailed the Sumatran, making two sorties and ferrying more than 2,000 tons of rubber, significantly reducing the burden on Biggles' transport aircraft. At the end of the mission, Li Chi elected to remain behind on Elephant Island--to finish building his junk which he would need when the war ended.
In Biggles Delivers the Goods, Biggles gives a little more biographical information about Li Chi. Apparently, according to Biggles, Li Chi was not his real name. It was the name of a Chinese fruit and was a nickname he was commonly known by. Li Chi had been educated at Oxford and spoke English well. His father was a wealthy merchant in Shanghai. From Raymond, Biggles learnt that Japanese had executed his father for refusing to reveal certain information and this had turned Li Chi bitterly against the Japanese.
Biggles believed Li Chi's smuggling of opium into India was a sideline and done more for sport than for money, of which Li Chi already had plenty. Of the pearls, Biggles believed Li Chi paid the British government for a pearling concession and so he thought the gifts he received were legitimate. He would later learn that they were pilfered from pearl catch of Admiral Tamashoa, afterwards the Japanese local commander in the Mergui region.
Of Li Chi, Biggles stated: "While men are decent to me I try to be decent to them, regardless of race, colour, politics, creed, or anything else."