China Beat Archive



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June 10, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright June 10, 2008. Used by permission.


Lijia Zhang, most recently the author ofSocialism is Great!, is also a freelance journalist with a great sense of style and an awesome website. Recently she entertained Nicole Barnes of the China Beat with an interview about her work. Her latest book is auto-biographical and narrates the decade that she spent working in a munitions factory, one of Communist China’s notoriously boring state-owned enterprises. Hindsight is glorious; Zhang’s beautiful writing transforms even this drab existence into an entertaining page-turner.

NB: As a freelance journalist, you seem to have a lot of control over your topics. Your articles cover the most pressing social issues–child labor, kidnapped brides, and rural suicide rates–as well as the side effects of economic growth–migrating sand dunes, sexual liberation, and the “toilet revolution”. What draws you to your topics?

LZ: First of all, let me stress that I don’t write for domestic publications, which means I don’t have to exercise self-censorship. I am a freelancer. I chose to write subjects that interest me. Coming from a lower social background, I like to focus on the ‘little people’s struggle, child labour, physically and emotionally displaced migrants and rural women. I also like to write stories that illustrate the changes the society is going through; all are very human stories.