The $1.3m (RMB10m) romantic drama with suspense elements is scheduled to start shooting in July. It tells the story of a female taxi driver (Zhou) who sets out to look for her boyfriend when he mysteriously disappears. She finds herself being followed and under surveillance, then discovers that her boyfriend is tied to a series of drug deals.
Singaporean actress Fann Wong (Shanghai Nights, Zodiac: The Race Begins) will also star.
Cao first came to attention in 2005 with his debut feature Trouble Makers about a village election in rural China. The film took home both the Jury Prize and University Students' Favorite Film prize at the Shanghai International Film Festival's Asian New Talent competition last year.
Zhou, who is currently managed by Huayi Brothers, is also in talks to star opposite Donnie Yen in Wilson Yip's $10m period fantasy thriller Painted Skin.
Meanwhile, Huayi Brothers has recently sold Feng Xiaogang-directed war drama The Assembly to Brazil 's Prime Pictures. Czech distributor AQS and Hungary 's Cinetel will share distribution of the film in Eastern Europe.
The film will be released in China this Christmas, traditionally a time reserved for local blockbusters. Another Chinese-language production, Peter Ho-sun Chan's The Warlords is scheduled for release on Decr 13 in all Asian territories except Japan.