Her story is an incredible tale of triumph over tragedy: a tormented childhood during China's Cultural Revolution, detention and forced exile after exposing female infanticide – then glittering success as the head of a major US technology firm.
"It sounds too unbelievable for fiction, but this is the true story of a life in two worlds," enthuses the website for Ping Fu's autobiography, Bend Not Break. In one interview to promote the book, the entrepreneur related how Michelle Obama had invited her back to the White House for a nightcap after the 2010 State of the Union address.
But after Chinese readers flagged up a series of inconsistencies and improbabilities in interviews she has given, Fu has been forced to defend her book from accusations that some of it is exaggerated or untrue. "I am shocked and saddened by the things that have been said," Fu told the Guardian. "It is very, very hurtful because it brings me right back to what happened to me when I was eight years old."
Fu is chief executive and cofounder of the 3D software company Geomagic, whose laser scanning technology has been used by Hollywood film studios, car designers and historians making a precise replica of the Statue of Liberty. She arrived in the US aged 25, passing through college and spells as a babysitter, cleaner and waitress before rising to her current position as a prominent business executive and board member of the White House advisory panel, the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Many of the questions swirling around Bend Not Break relate to the 54-year-old's horrifying account of being wrenched from her parents when the Cultural Revolution started in 1966, and sent to a re-education camp where she was gang-raped at the age of 10. An estimated 36 million people were persecuted during the turmoil of that time and numerous families were torn apart.
But sceptics, including Fang Zhouzi, an influential blogger who scrutinises Chinese academia, say much of Fu's story does not ring true. Fu has now acknowledged that her 2010 account to NPR radio of being forced to watch Red Guards executing a teacher by using four horses to tear the victim apart was an "emotional memory" and probably wrong.
"When I was young, these are the stories being told to us and in my nightmares they come back again and again. That time was so traumatic. I was taken away from my parents," she said.
But she now accepts that her imagination may have played tricks. "Somehow in my mind I always thought I saw it, but now I'm not sure my memory served me right. I probably saw it in a movie or something, and I acknowledge that's a problem."
There are also queries about the circumstances surrounding her departure from China. The opening line of the book reads: "When I was 25 years old, the Chinese government quietly deported me." Sceptics point out that usually only prominent dissidents go into exile by arrangement.
Fu said she hadn't used "deported" in the draft of her memoir. The word was suggested as an amendment by her co-author and editors as a way to "attract readers".
But she added that by the dictionary definition it was accurate to say she had been deported. "If you are asked to leave your country and it is not voluntary, that is a form of deportation."
According to Fu's book, she was forced to leave because of her university thesis on female infanticide prompted by the one-child policy. A Shanghai newspaper learned of her groundbreaking research and "called for an end to the madness" in an editorial comment subsequently republished by the People's Daily – in what would have been an astonishing move for the staid official Communist party newspaper. That sparked an international outcry and her detention, she wrote.
After Fang said he found no trace of the commentary, Fu responded in a column in the Huffington Post: "I remember reading an editorial in a newspaper in 1982 that called for gender equality. It was not a news article and not written by me, and I didn't know it had anything to do with my research. When writing the book, I did not name the paper, since I wasn't certain. However, I think that is where I read the editorial because it was the most popular and official newspaper."
Adrian Zackheim, publisher of Portfolio books, Penguin's business imprint, said he stood by Bend Not Break, adding that he had "absolute confidence" in Fu and her memoir. "I have no doubts that the book is substantially correct and that attempts to pick apart elements of it are political attacks."
Zackheim said Portfolio had no plans to look into the veracity of the book. "This is a memoir of a woman's life, it's not a work of journalism. Are there errors in the book? I can't say, but if there are they are errors of memory."