Zha Jianying was born in Beijing in 1959 to a family of intellectuals (her father was a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences). In 1978, she joined the first class of students at the newly reopened Peking University (now Beijing University). In 1981, she left China to attend the University of South Carolina, where she completed a master's degree in English in 1984. In 1986, she received her second master's degree - this one in comparative literature - from Columbia University. She went back to China in 1987 and worked briefly for the New York Times Beijing office before returning to the States in 1989. From 1990 to 1995, she lived in Chicago. It was during this period that she began traveling between China and the U.S. to research her book China Pop: How Soap Operas, Tabloids and Bestsellers are Transforming a Culture (1996, New Press). In 2003, she was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in non-fiction. Her newest book, Bashi Niandai Fangtanlu, is a collection of Chinese-language interviews with 11 prominent mainland intellectuals active in 1980s cultural circles. Published by Sanlian Shudian (Sanlian Bookstore Press), it is now in its sixth print run.