The 22-year-old will partner experienced Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas, who is joining from Mercedes after five seasons alongside seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton, in an all-new line-up.
Zhou takes the place of Ferrari-backed Italian driver Antonio Giovinazzi, while Finnish veteran Kimi Raikkonen is retiring.
Zhou is second in the Formula Two standings, with two weekends to come in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
Vasseur said Zhou would be severing his ties with Alpine.
Zhou is likely to bring considerable backing from China, some reports suggesting as much as $30 million, but Vasseur would not be drawn on the details or duration of the contract.