It was in the factory that she started to write. She also began to study English. It opened her mind to the world outside. A few years later, she embarked on a career as a journalist. And one day, she happened to meet Peter Hessler, an American author and journalist. They became friends. “Once, during lunch, I accidentally mentioned to Peter that I had worked in a missile factory,” says Lijia. “He looked surprised. Peter probably thought that I came from a wealthier background, and was better educated.”
Peter asked Lijia whether she could write a piece for the Asian Wall Street Journal, for which he contributed. Her piece was published in December 2000. “When my friends read it, they said, ‘Why don’t you write a book’?” says Lijia. She did some research and discovered that there were very few books set in China in the 1980s….
Lijia says that China has changed enormously. “Not many people know that the ordinary citizen now enjoys so much personal freedom,” she says. “They can choose their own lifestyles, and select where they want to live. However, there is still a cage. But for many, the cage has grown so big that they simply don’t feel the limit. But I don’t see any major democracy movement coming up in the near future.”