When she "first went to China in 1979 to study archeology at Beijing University, the classroom windows were still shattered by the rampages of the recently-ended Cultural Revolution. As one of the few Chinese-speaking Westerners in Beijing, Spiess became a partner in one of the first ten companies to establish a representative office in the newly open-door China, and developed innovative business strategies to bypass the stranglehold of the state plan. In the late 1980's, she became Executive Director of the Canada China Business Council, and worked on Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) programs to support China's ongoing economic reforms.
"After the 1989 tragedy of Tiananmen, Spiess' interests turned to political and legal reform in China. Returning to her alma mater Princeton University, Spiess was Managing Director of the Princeton China Initiative, a think-tank established for over twenty of China's leading intellectuals and reformers, many of whom had been forced into exile by the Beijing crackdown. As Regional Program Director at the Washington-based International Republican Institute (IRI) from 1993 - 1995, Spiess led the first Western mission to monitor local village elections in China, and helped initiate pioneering exchanges between the Chinese and U.S. Congresses, receiving broad bipartisan support. With grants from CIDA and IRI, Spiess developed the first election training programs with mandatory secret ballot voting, which has now become Chinese law. She observed local elections in nine Chinese provinces, and later worked with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to establish an election training centre for rural officials.
"In 1998, Spiess returned to her native Toronto. Looking for a new challenge, she decided to explore another rapidly changing field: the web. She now produces cutting-edge digital media, while continuing to take a keen interest in China's ongoing transformation." 
"In 1994, Lishu party secretary Fei Yuncheng had participated in a training session jointly sponsored by the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the Ford Foundation, during which IRI China specialist Lorraine Spiess and the Ford Foundation’s Phyllis Chang built a secret ballot booth and directed the participating Chinese officials through a mock election." 
- Anne F. Thurston, "Muddling toward Democracy Political Change in Grassroots China", USIP, August 1998.
- The Walrus Magazine "Thoughts on Writing "SARS, Censorship, and the Battle for China's Future"", 2004.