Qian Chu came to power after his brother, Qian Zong, was deposed in a coup d'état. At the time, Wuyue was at its largest territorial extent, ruling 13 zhou in modern-day Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shanghai, and Fujian. Throughout its history, Wuyue maintained a policy of nominally submitting to the successive dominant northern regimes. Unlike the other small states in the south, the Wuyue kings never declared themselves Emperor. In return, the northern regimes respected Wuyue's autonomy and conferred upon its kings high honours, one of which was the title of "Commander of All Horses and Soldiers Under Heaven". Indeed, Qian Chu changed his name from the original Qian Hongchu, because the character hong was barred by taboo (as the name of Emperor Taizu of Song's father was Zhao Hongyin (趙弘殷)).
When the Song Dynasty unified northern China in the 960s, Qian Chu reportedly followed his ancestor Qian Liu's instruction to submit as soon as possible when the "true lord" appeared. In 960, Qian Chu submitted to Song, and changed his name in the same year. Subsequently, Qian Chu obeyed orders from the Song court to participate in the annexation of the other small southern kingdoms on behalf of the Song emperor. In 968, he was re-created the King of Wuyue by the Song emperor, and subsequently invested with further imperial honours. In 977, the new emperor Emperor Taizong of Song invested Qian with the nominal titles Chancellor, Chief Secretary, and Commander of All Horses and Soldiers Under Heaven.
However, in 978, Qian Chu surrendered his territories to the Song regime, possibly under veiled threat from the Song court. Nevertheless, the "voluntary" surrender protected the Wuyue region from the ravages of war that visited other contemporary regimes. The region was able to maintain its infrastructure and economic advantage, built up over the Wuyue period, which in no small part contributed to the Yangtze Delta being the economic centre of China up to the present day.
To allay northern suspicions and prevent conflict, Qian Chu stayed in the Song capital, Bianjing (now Kaifeng), and moved 3000 members of his household there. Qian nominally remained a king. His sons and a large number of the Wuyue elite were given various imperial posts and titles. Initially, Emperor Taizong of Song raised the prefecture of Yangzhou to the nominal state of Huaihai (淮海), and installed Qian Chu as King of Huaihai (淮海国王). In 984, Qian Chu was made King of Hannan (汉南国王) (a smaller nominal feoff) instead, and in 987 reduced again to King of Nanyang (南阳国王), with the right to take up residence in Nanyang, but then immediately additionally created Prince of Xu (许王), with an enlarged feoff. In 988, Qian Chu lost his title as king and was made Prince of Deng (邓王) instead, with a larger nominal feoff and actual income.
Qian Chu reportedly enjoyed a good personal relationship with the emperor, being regularly summoned to the palace for banquets and ball games. On his 60th birthday (by the Chinese calendar) in 988, Emperor Taizong of Song sent him wine as a gift. After drinking the wine, he became violently ill and died that night. He was given a state funeral, posthumously raised to King of Qin, and buried near Luoyang.
Qian Chu had seven sons, one of whom went on to become a Chancellor in the Song court.