Latest Issue

Bye bye, Beijing

After Tiananmen I had to join the Chinese army. There I heard a song that took me to America

By Yiyun Li   October 2004

In the summer of 1991, I graduated from high school and was headed for Peking University, one of the hotbeds of the pro-democratic movement which had led to the Tiananmen Square protest two years earlier. But after the bloodshed in June 1989, the government had decided, as a precaution, to send all students entering Peking University to the army for a year of disciplining or “political re-education.” This programme lasted until the university had “changed blood” – meaning that younger students would no longer have direct contact with the troublemakers of Tiananmen.

We arrived at the army camp in Xinyang,…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect