About "Socialism Is Great!" and me
Be featured in the Lonely Planet Magazine, July 2011

review of the paperback in Washington Post

Lijia's profile in The Star (Canadian)

Review in Internet Review of Books

Review of "Socialism Is Great!" in FEER

Review of Asian Review of Books

Review in China Beat

Review of "Socialism Is Great!" in Sydney Morning Herald.

Lijia's profile in Sydney Morning Herald.

Review of "Socialism Is Great!" in The Weekend Australian. (part1)

Review of "Socialism Is Great!" in The Weekend Australian. (part2)

Lijia's profile in The Age (Australia)

Socialism is Great! The New York Times Book Review

Lijia's interview with CBC

Lijia's interview with Kirkus Review

Kirkus Review of "Socialism Is Great!"

Review of "Socialism Is Great!" in Asian Wall Street Journal.

Review of "Socialism Is Great!" in Curled Up With A Good Book.

Click here to listen Lijia's interview with China Radio International, Feb 28th, 2008

Lijia's interview with That's Beijing

Shanghai Talk interview

Lijia's Profile on South China Morning Post

Lijia's story in The Poets and Writers' magazine

The World Interview 1

The World Interview 2

NPR's 'Here and Now' Interview

Lijia's profile in US 1

Review in Tribune Magazine in UK

Lijia's interview with China beat

"Beautiful...A notable historical document and a vivid, affecting portrait of a young woman's resolve." --Kirkus Review

"At 16, Zhang was a strong student at a Nanjing school with dreams of becoming a journalist until her mother announces that she'll be retiring from her job at the Liming Machinery Factory, and Zhang will take her place. A voracious reader, Zhang is devastated to learn that she is being sent to the factory to work and finds it every bit as dull as she expected. She is assigned to a team that manages gauges but soon discovers there is not nearly enough for everyone to do. The factory community thrives on gossip and infighting, and the rules are so strict that they include a mandate about the length of men's hair. Zhang finds an escape through education, getting herself admitted to a university as an engineering student. But upon finishing her studies, she is forced to return to the factory, where she is reassigned to the same group she thought she'd left behind. This revealing memoir will have readers rooting for Zhang as she fights her way out of an oppressive system."��?Booklist Magazine, Feb, 2008

Emerging from politically generated obscurity of a different kind was Lijia Zhang, a former Nanjing rocket-factory worker who spent 10 years among 10,000 comrades effectively incarcerated in the "iron rice bowl" of the state employee. The effusive Zhang, now following the literary festival circuit in support of her memoir Socialism is Great! brought several houses down with rollicking tales of how having wavy hair betrayed a pretend communist's bourgeois affinities, and of the indispensability of Jane Eyre in diluting the insanity of her plant's endless, obligatory political meetings. Few in her audiences would have guessed these were her first public appearances of any "performing" kind.—South China Morning Post's round-up of HK literature festival 2008

Reviews for "China Remembers"

 "The revolution which created the People's Republic of China was one of the most significant events of the twentieth century.  Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping guided their nation through almost fifty years of unparalled change.  The decisions they made dramatically affected the lives of everyone in China.  This insightful book charts their successes and failures through the lives of those ordinary people.  Without ever attempting to disguise the magnitude of the task now facing Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji as they lead the People's Republic into the twenty-first century, the stories compiled here resonate with courage, determination, and confidence in a brighte future."- Sir Edward Health, KG, MP

"While, for a variety of political reasons, innumerable attempts have been made to obliterate what actualy happened(in China), to distort truthful accounts of the realities of life, and to exercise deliberate collective amnesia, China Remembers offers authentic voices of a group of remarkable racouneurs for those who are willing to listen as well as for those whose ears are attuned to subtle cultural messages from the ancient and ever vibrant civilization."- Tu Weiming, Director, Harvard-Yenching Institute

"These are real memories of China, with all the enthusiasms and horrors, the triumphs and disasters, of the last fifty years.  The story of this half-century of Communist rule is still too complex to tell adequately: it comes over far better through these vivid recollections of people who were actually there."- John Gittings

Institutionalized Amnesia By Jason Dean 

The Asian Wall Street Journal

"China Remembers" By Zhang Lijia and Calum MacLeod

Earlier this year, Chinese police released U.S.-based researcher Song Yongyi after detaining him for the crime of collecting old newspaper clippings about the Cultural Revolution. Ignoring the fact that Beijing itself had officially denounced that Mao-induced decade of chaos more than 20 years earlier, the police held Mr. Song for six months and forced him to make a "confession" before letting him go. Officially, at least, China still forgets a lot. Which is one reason why "China Remembers" (Oxford University Press, 308 pages, $27.00) is an invigorating read. Neither whitewash nor polemic, the book offers an impassioned but impartial account of Communist China's first 50 years, through collected vignettes from the lives of 34 people who witnessed and shaped the tumult. Their tales, told first person and interwoven with sharp historical summaries, add up to a surprisingly thorough reckoning with Chinese history, bright spots and blemishes, hope and disillusionment. It's a book that should be read by anyone who wants to understand the world's most populous nation -- not least the Chinese themselves. The raconteurs in "China Remembers" include some that even armchair China hands may recognize. Pioneering musician Cui Jian, for example, tells of turning the masses on to rock 'n' roll in the 1980s. Dogged environmentalist Dai Qing relates her quixotic quest to alert the government to the environmental catastrophe its Three Gorges dam project will bring. For the most part, however, editors Calum MacLeod and Zhang Lijia have culled their stories from less familiar ranks: a grass-roots Party cadre cum landlord-executioner in the 1950s; the young woman who interpreted for U.S. President Richard Nixon on his landmark visit in 1972; an aging Christian pastor who quietly defies China's religious controls from his "house church" in Beijing. Each of the narrators offers an inside angle on some key historical moment that they observed firsthand or helped to shape. Their stories are assembled into five chapters covering the major phases of the last five decades, during which China first exulted in its new egalitarian unity, then energetically threw itself into famine and re-revolution before easing open to the outside world and beginning the arduous, and still unfinished, assimilation into the global economy. Pundits, propagandists, and historians have reviewed these turbulent periods at great length, their voluminous research and abundant opinions fill libraries. "China Remembers" doesn't try to add new arguments to this mountain, but to color it with life. And in this it succeeds brilliantly. Free from the restraints of any single perspective, the book captures the quirks and paradoxes of modern Chinese society, and gives voice to the diversity that is often undetectable amid the blunt debates about China. It records the beats and murmurs of "the human heart of modern China's many revolutions." The book's achievements reflect its editors' broad grasp of China's cultural currents. Mr. MacLeod is an Oxford-trained sinologist who has advised Western businesses on how to deal with the Chinese bureaucracy and now writes for The Independent. Ms. Zhang is a former factory worker who now writes for Newsweek and other international publications as a freelance journalist. The husband-and-wife team's personal insight and professional acuity is especially well-reflected in the book's backgrounders, which deftly set the often-complicated context for each story in the space of a page or two. "China Remembers" is a sister volume to similarly styled books about Macau and Hong Kong. I remember my Hong Kong hotel giving gift copies of the latter to guests during the territory's handover in 1997. But, for all its strengths, "China Remembers" is much harder to come by on its home turf. Since its first printing in the U.K. last fall, it has had editions printed in the U.S. and in Chinese for readers in Hong Kong and Taiwan. But there are no plans for a mainland China printing: Ms. Zhang and Mr. MacLeod were told the only way to publish in China would be to cut the book's more critical portions. It's a shame. China has relaxed considerably its enforcement of collective amnesia in the past two decades. One of the narrators of "China Remembers," the writer Feng Jicai, for example, has achieved fame by publicizing personal accounts of the sensitive Cultural Revolution. But Beijing still has not reconciled itself with its past, and continues to try to hinder the ability of its people to do so. To be sure, there is much in these pages for the Party to find unpleasant. Time and again narrators whose patriotic and utopian hopes were kindled by the Communist victory in 1949 tell how their zeal for the revolution was crushed by some great Party-engineered disaster. "All these vicious political campaigns not only shocked us returned scholars, but the millions worldwide who once had hope in communism," says Zhou Youguang, the book's first narrator, who left his promising New York banking career in the 1950s to help rebuild the motherland. "I myself only gave up Communism during the Cultural Revolution." And yet this is not a collection of bitter recriminations. The stories here are those of people with an amazing will to survive, and an unyielding patriotism that seems to fuel, in most of them, hope for China's future -- though it may not be the Party's brand of optimism born of selective memory. What resonates most in the pages of "China Remembers" is the everlasting strength of the Chinese individual, the independent spirit that has stubbornly survived despite so many attempts to blot it out. Fast forward 50 years to the story of Sherry Liu, the book's final narrator. Ms. Liu also returned to China from the U.S., though she came back not to aid the revolution, but as a lawyer for Motorola. "Despite the frustrations of living and working here, I see China in a better light, as I remember what the past was like," she says. "In the isolated environment of Mao's China, we may have appeared a dumb army of identical blue suits. But give people greater freedom to think and access to the outside world, and they will think and act differently." --- Mr. Dean is a reporter in the Beijing bureau of Dow Jones Newswires. Document awsj000020010803dw4j003e2

Challenging China's Spin Doctors By Lorien Holland

Far Eastern Economic Review

China's Communist leadership has worked hard to obliterate the dark side of its 50 years in power and present a cleansed report of the tumult and revolution. But husband-and-wife team Calum McLeod and Zhang Lijia have managed to throw a spanner in the works by producing an unvarnished history of modern China. They amassed a remarkable collection of first-hand accounts of the crackdowns and campaigns that shaped the nation since Mao Zedong declared China as the People's Republic on October 1, 1949. The 34 voices represent a broad range of society: from a former Red Guard who led an ultra-leftist takeover of the Shanghai police department in 1967 to Mao's own English teacher. Also included are feed-grain millionaire Liu Yonghao, who is one of China's richest businessmen, an underground Christian pastor, and even Cui Jian, the nation's celebrated rock-music star. Their recollections help demystify the disasters and triumphs of China's struggle to modernize by putting the movements and propaganda into personal context.  While Chinese sagas such as Jung Chang's Wild Swans catalogue the disasters that befell their protagonists, this volume has a much wider brush stroke. The book depicts people who actively participated in Mao's campaigns, giving a human face to the contradictions that plague China. To quote former Red Guard An Wenjiang: "When I was teaching at middle school, one of my students wrote in an essay that the Red Guards were all thugs. She thought I was joking when I told her I was not only a Red Guard, but also the commander of a rebel group. It made me realize the importance of portraying a truthful picture of the Red Guards in history . . . Perhaps my story will help people understand us better." Mao raised the Communist flag over China after a bitter civil war with the Nationalist government. Most in the exhausted nation wanted peace and stability. But that was not to be as China swung from the 1957 Anti-Rightist Campaign, through the Great Leap Forward of 1958, when tens of millions died of starvation, and on to the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution when youthful Red Guards wreaked havoc and uncounted millions were persecuted. It was only after Mao's death in 1976 that enabled the Chinese people to catch their collective breath. His successor, Deng Xiaoping, subsequently retreated from Marxism with a "reform and opening up" policy that allowed economic efficiency to replace perpetual revolution. The Communist Party, however, still retains control and China's past remains a touchy subject. Each first-person account focuses on one episode of the past 50 years. It is preceded by a page of historical and biographical information, which puts the narrator in context. The voices also are grouped into five chapters, which roughly follow the five decades of the People's Republic of China. Each chapter is headed with a detailed historical account of the period, providing further depth for those who want it. The frank, approachable testimonies of the people in China Remembers are bolstered by the extensive knowledge of both authors. Zhang, a Chinese national, works as a freelance writer in Beijing, and McLeod, a fluent Mandarin speaker, works for a British business consultancy in Beijing. A word of warning: potential readers will do well not to judge the book by its cover. It makes no reference to the 50th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, which was the book's raison d'etre, nor does it allude to the content of China Remembers. The book could easily be mistaken for a government-approved collection of sanitized memories rather than the unparalleled, lively, warts-and-all chronicle that it is. A subtitle giving some indication of this stellar collection of voices would be an important revision. --- Lorien Holland is a REVIEW correspondent based in Beijing

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