RAS Salon

Lijia Zhang

Lijia Zhang looks deep into China’s massive underground sex industry. Her insights into the trade form the basis of her novel, Lotus, inspired by her grandmother, a former prostitute. Lotus tells a story of a young migrant-worker-turned-sex-worker as she carves out a life for herself in Shenzhen, China’s ‘City of Sins’. In addition to some fascinating and colourful anecdotes, Lijia discusses the deeply flawed current legal system tasked with managing the social problem, such as ‘custody and education’, similar to the notorious ‘laogai’; how the working girls have often been brutally treated; the broad social issues that have led to the spectacular rise of China’s sex industry; and the growing gender inequality in the reform era.

Lijia Zhang is a factory-worker-turned writer, social commentator and public speaker. One of the few Chinese who write regularly in English for international publications, her articles have appeared in The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, Newsweek and The New York Times. Along with her debut novel Lotus, she is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir “Socialism Is Great!” about her rocket factory experience in the 1980s. Lijia has spoken at many conferences, institutions and universities around the world, including Harvard, Columbia and Stanford. She is a regular guest on the BBC, Channel 4, CNN and NPR. She divides her time between London and Beijing.

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