Who am I


I am a rocket-factory-girl-turned writer, columnist and public speaker, and one of the few Chinese social commentators who write in English for international publications.

I was born into a poor working class family in Nanjing, on the banks of Yangtze River. Excelled at school, I dreamt of becoming a writer and a journalist. In 1980, aged 16, I was dragged out of school and put to work at a military factory that produced intercontinental missiles. It lasted for a decade. As an escape route, I taught myself English and took solace in literature.

I arrived in England in 1990, and a childhood dream stirred. I studied journalism. Returning to China three years later, I started my career by helping foreign correspondents before becoming a journalist of in own right. It was a struggle to write stories in English, but compared to my western colleagues, I believed that I had something different to offer: my insight into a culture that still remains largely unknown outside China. My articles, usually commentary pieces on China’s social, cultural and political changes, have been published in South China Morning Post, Far Eastern Economic Review, Japan Times, The Guardian, Newsweek and The New York Times.

A book of oral history of modern China commissioned by Oxford University Press whetted my appetite for book writing. I penned a memoir about my factory experience in the 80s’ which also reflected the great social transformation in China brought by the reforms and opening up. It enjoyed world-wide success.

I then launched my first fiction project – Lotus, which tells the story of a young working girl, set in modern day Shenzhen, known as China’s ‘capital of sins’. Like the city itself, Lotus is torn between the past tradition and modern desires. It will be published by Macmillan in March 2017.

I’ve lectured at many top universities, institutions, banks, and business conferences around the world, including Columbia University, Stanford, Harvard, London Business School, European Institute For Asian Studies and Eu-Asia Top Economist Round Table Forum. I’ve been featured on the BBC, Channel 4, ABC (Australian), Aljazeera, CNN, NPR, among other international media.

And for speech inquiries, please contact my agents Andrew Vine at Insight Bureau andrewvine@insightbureau.com or Priscilla Chan at Speakersconnect priscilla@speakersconnect.com

My website is: http://www.lijiazhang.com

Praise for “Socialism is Great!”

“Lijia Zhang’s book is gentle, funny and wry.”
–Arundhati Roy, the author of God of Small Things

“A remarkable memoir…. A notable historical document and a vivid, affecting portrait of a young woman’s resolve.”
–Kirkus Review

“Set against China’s breathless recent transformation, ‘Socialism is Great!’ offers a rare and intimate glimpse of a country and culture that are now reshaping our world.”
–Pankaj Mishra, the author of The Romantics, An End to Suffering, and From the Ruins of Empire

Praise for Lotus

Lijia Zhang’s Lotus, her debut novel, unfolds like a mystical Oriental fan.  All of the characters seem to be in various stages of awakening and decay, and suffering from various degrees of hopelessness and hopefulness all at the same time. What an insightful verdict against a society that seems to be spiraling out of control. One comes to love India because of Arundunti Roy’s God of Small Things, a Booker Prize winner, and one would surely love the hot and humid Southern China of her invention, through this brilliant novel. Both were debuts; both written in the most inventive prose. You will cry, and in the end, laugh in celebration not just of the winning characters, but Zhang’s true gift as an essential novelist of this world.
Da Chen New York Times bestselling author of: Colors of the Mountain, Brothers and My Last Empress.

Lotus is a rollicking, sexy novel, but it’s not just another fun read. The novel much  provides so much insight into the underside of China’s roaring economy and the immense pressure on young migrants to get rich quick. In Lijia Zhang’s tour of the sex industry, you’ll find not only sleaze, but soul.
Barbara Demick, author of the National Book Award finalist Nothing to Envy and former China Bureau Chief for LA Times

7 thoughts on “Who am I

  1. Hi Lijia,

    I just recently finished reading your book. It was an interesting read, and gave very good insight of China after cultural revolution. I have read quite a few books about China (politicially) but for the first time I had the insight of a commoner on their daily life and impact of socialist China of 70’s and 80’s. And never stop writing.

    Best Wishes,


  2. Your book conveniently ignores racism against non-Chinese, see thenewslens.com/post/147413/, which racism continues unabated. Physician heal thyself

  3. Dear Lijia,
    I am an Argentine citizen and I have just finished my first novel about a love story at the outbreak of WWII.
    The peculiarity is that I’ve written it in English which is not my first language, something similar to your case, which is admirable. I was a former Air Pilot and I learnt English as a second language.
    Here in Argentina it’s difficult to submit a book in English, so I would like to know if you can help me getting in touch with your publisher to find out if they could be interested in this novel.

    Thank you very very much in advance for all the assistance you can provide me, sincerely,

    Fabian Samueli Maraviglia

  4. Hi Zhang,
    I’ve just read some introduction pages on your book “Socialism is Great”, but I couldn’t find it. I am really interested in reading it in order to understand more about China during your shool time: Would you mind giving me copy of this and give me permission to translate it into Vietnamese so that people in Vietnam will have chance to read it and to understand it.
    I am looking forward to hearing good news from you.

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