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Lijia Zhang’s book “Socialism is Great! A Worker's Memoir of the New China” is considered to have bridged the much needed gap in our understanding by focusing on a much neglected period of Chinese political history. Lijia’s book is a personal account, not a political one, and is based on the encounters she faced as she was growing into adulthood during the birth pangs of democratization and new capitalism in China during 1980’s. With the use of the book as a primary source and other internet publications and articles as secondary sources, this paper will seek to discuss how the life of Zhang reflects and is controlled by the changes that were shaped partly because of what people were exercising and what they wanted, and not what an authority figure dictated. It will also seek to discuss the difficulties and tribulations which a woman went through during this period in Chinese history.
Zhang is considered to be a free spirit and does whatever she feels will please her. She showed revolt by soaking up western literature and culture as much as possible. She had also forbidden meetings with lovers. This brings out the bizarre oppressive rules that China had where the intimate life of common citizens was regulated by the communist party. Furthermore, the infamous China’s one child policy is highlighted where a single woman could not legally obtain a child whereas married women would be forced to have abortions. This led to massive cases of forced abortions and infanticide. In this sexually regulated society, an unmarried pregnant woman bared a lot of pain and suffering as a result of social stigma and civil sanctions. The limiting of the number of children was not the only way by which the society regulated the lives of married couples. From the memoir, Zhang’s mother lived like a widow for the better part of her life for being bold and marrying a man from another city who was never allowed to prematurely join them in their city. Moreover, the humiliation faced by women in this society is shown by the chilling accounts of women after undergoing periodic examinations as they worked in the rocket plant. All the abovementioned facts bring into focus the mistreatment women underwent in this society and the way how their rights were violated by this state rules.