Frank Langfitt

Frank Langfitt is NPR's international correspondent based in Shanghai. He covers China, Japan, and the Koreas for NPR News. His reports have included visits to China's infamous black jails –- secret detention centers — as well as his own travails taking China's driver's test, which he failed three times.

Before moving to China, Langfitt was NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi. He reported from Sudan and covered the civil war in Somalia, where learned to run fast in Kevlar and interviewed imprisoned Somali pirates, who insisted they were just misunderstood fishermen. During the Arab spring, Langfitt covered the uprising and crushing of the reform movement in Bahrain.

Prior to Africa, Langfitt was a labor correspondent based in Washington, D.C. He covered the 2008 financial crisis, the bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler and coal mine disasters in West Virginia.

Shanghai is Langfitt's second posting in China. Before coming to NPR, he spent five years as a correspondent in Beijing for The Baltimore Sun, covering a swath of Asia from East Timor to the Khyber Pass. During the opening days of the Afghan War, Langfitt reported from Pakistan and Kashmir.

In 2008, Langfitt covered the Beijing Olympics as a member of NPR's team, which won an Edward R. Murrow Award for sports reporting. Langfitt's print and visual journalism have also been honored by the Overseas Press Association and the White House News Photographers Association.

Langfitt spent his early years in journalism stringing for the Philadelphia Inquirer and living in Hazard, Kentucky, where he covered the state's Appalachian coalfields for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Before becoming a reporter, Langfitt drove a taxi in Philadelphia and dug latrines in Mexico. Langfitt is a graduate of Princeton and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard.

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5:42pm

Wed August 8, 2012
Asia

Murder Trial Of Chinese Politician's Wife Set To Start

Originally published on Wed August 8, 2012 7:35 pm

Gu Kailai, the wife of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai, will stand trial on charges related to the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. Here, the couple is shown in 2007 attending Bo's father's funeral.
Reuters/Landov

One of China's biggest criminal trials opens Thursday, and its lurid details make for a sort-of Communist Party film noir. The wife of an ambitious Chinese politician is accused of murdering a British businessman. Her powerful husband allegedly blocks the police investigation, and the police chief, fearing for his life, takes refuge in a U.S. consulate and implicates the wife in the killing.

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4:48pm

Tue August 7, 2012
NPR Cities: Urban Life In The 21st Century

Wu-Where? Opportunities Shift To China's New Cities

Originally published on Tue August 7, 2012 9:00 pm

Wuhan's newest attraction is Han Street, a shopping complex that stretches several football fields, features fancy faux European architecture, and is filled with stores featuring foreign brands from Dairy Queen to Zara.
Frank Langfitt NPR

China became a majority urban country this year. No nation has shifted so quickly from rural to urban than China, where more than half of the people now live in urban areas.

Everyone is familiar with megacities like Beijing and Shanghai, but they are just a tiny part of China's urbanization story. The country has more than 160 cities with populations of a million or more — places most of the world is only vaguely familiar with, if at all.

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7:22am

Sun July 15, 2012
Asia

Slowed Growth Reflects China's Uphill Battle

Originally published on Sun July 15, 2012 11:11 am

No country has enjoyed more spectacular growth in recent decades than China. But the economy that will one day replace America's as the world's largest also faces a lot of challenges. Guest host David Greene talks to NPR's Frank Langfitt, who was a reporter in China in the '90s and returned to Shanghai for NPR last year.

12:18pm

Thu July 5, 2012
Asia

After A Forced Abortion, A Roaring Debate In China

Originally published on Thu July 5, 2012 11:09 pm

Feng Jianmei and her husband could not pay $6,000 in fines for violating China's one-child policy. In June, when she was seven months pregnant, local officials abducted her and forced her to have an abortion, her family says. The case has provoked widespread outrage.
Quirky China News Rex Features

Deng Jiyuan and Feng Jianmei, a couple from northwest China's Shaanxi province, have a 6-year-old daughter. Under China's complicated birth calculus, they were barred from having another child. But they tried anyway.

"We planned this pregnancy because our parents are old, they want us to have another child," Deng, 30, explained by cellphone last month from his home in Shaanxi.

That decision led to a sequence of events that has ignited a firestorm and renewed debate over the country's one-child policy.

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4:44am

Fri June 15, 2012
Asia

China's Economy Cools, Perhaps More Than Planned

Originally published on Fri June 15, 2012 11:14 am

A Chinese worker operates a machine at a factory in Binzhou in northeast China's Shandong province. China's exports and imports shot up in May year-on-year, the customs agency said on June 10, defying expectations amid a slowdown in the world's second largest economy.
AFP/Getty Images

In recent months, economic growth in China has not only slowed — it's slowed faster than most people expected. Last week, for the first time since the depths of the global financial crisis, the government actually cut lending rates to try to spur growth. All of this has people wondering: Where is the world's star economy headed?

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1:46pm

Thu June 7, 2012
Asia

Bankrupt At Home, Philly Orchestra Looks To China

Originally published on Thu June 7, 2012 8:17 pm

The Philadelphia Orchestra, which declared bankruptcy last year, has been performing in China, where it is looking to develop new streams of revenue.
Frank Langfitt NPR

The Philadelphia Orchestra has just wrapped up a 10-day visit to China, its seventh trip to the country over the past four decades.

But this trip was different.

The orchestra is preparing to come out of bankruptcy, and this tour was about its survival. It hopes to balance its books by building new audiences and new revenues in the world's second-largest economy.

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3:37pm

Tue May 29, 2012
Asia

China, Philippines Face Off Over Remote Islands

Originally published on Tue May 29, 2012 8:45 pm

For the past two months, the Philippines and China have been locked in a standoff over territory in the South China Sea that both countries claim.The Philippine navy accused Chinese boats of fishing illegally in the area. Protesters in the Philippines are shown here marching in Manila earlier this month.
Pat Roque AP

Back in early April, a Philippine navy frigate tried to arrest Chinese fishermen accused of poaching sharks and giant clams.

But more is at stake than a boatload of seafood.

Neighboring countries say confrontations like this are growing as China asserts claims to territory well beyond its coastline. And analysts think China is testing America's resolve in the region.

Philippine officials say China still has more than 30 boats in the contested area, which is widely known as Scarborough Shoal, though the Chinese call it Huangyan Island.

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8:56am

Fri May 25, 2012
The Two-Way

What A Show! China's Movie Theaters Have Improved Dramatically

Originally published on Fri May 25, 2012 11:34 am

Moviegoers at a 3D IMAX theater in Beijing.
Ng Han Guan AP

On Morning Edition, NPR's Frank Langfitt reported about a Chinese company's $2.6 billion purchase of North America's second-largest movie theater chain. Now, he tells us how the movie-going experience has changed in China in recent years:

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4:26am

Fri May 25, 2012
Asia

Hollywood Dreams Led Chinese Firm To Buy Into U.S.

Originally published on Fri May 25, 2012 10:09 am

Moviegoers watch a 3-D IMAX movie at a Beijing theater run by the Chinese company Wanda, which recently announced it was buying AMC movie theaters for $2.6 billion. The move is seen as part of a larger effort by the Chinese conglomerate to move into the U.S. market.
Ng Han Guan AP

One of the big movie blockbusters this year isn't a film, but a business deal.

The Chinese company Wanda, one of that country's leading cinema owners, is buying AMC Entertainment, North America's second-largest movie theater company, for $2.6 billion.

When the agreement was announced in China this week, it did not make a lot of sense at first glance. At least for the buyer.

AMC is loaded with some $2 billion in debt, and movie theater attendance in North America was down 4 percent last year.

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10:47am

Wed May 23, 2012
Mongolia Booms

Old Ways Disappearing In The New Mongolia

Originally published on Thu May 24, 2012 9:57 pm

A baby Bactrian camel is tied up at the edge of the Badam family's small farmstead. Bactrian camels — like all Mongolian mammals — have thick fur to withstand the winters.
John W. Poole NPR

Mongolia, the land of Genghis Khan and nomadic herders, is in the midst of a remarkable transition. Rich in coal, gold and copper, this country of fewer than 3 million people in Central Asia is riding a mineral boom that is expected to more than double its GDP within a decade. The rapid changes simultaneously excite and unnerve many Mongolians, who hope mining can help pull many out of poverty, but worry it will ravage the environment and further erode the nation's distinctive, nomadic identity.

Last of four parts

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3:21am

Wed May 23, 2012
Mongolia Booms

Mongolians Scramble For A Share Of Mining Wealth

Originally published on Wed May 30, 2012 5:18 pm

Tseren-ochir is a superintendent at Oyu Tolgoi mine who goes by the name "Augie" because it's easier for the foreigners he works with to pronounce. He is overseeing workers digging a nearly 5,000-foot-deep shaft down to reach the copper ore.
John W. Poole NPR

Mongolia, the land of Genghis Khan and nomadic herders, is in the midst of a remarkable transition. Rich in coal, gold and copper, this country of fewer than 3 million people in Central Asia is riding a mineral boom that is expected to more than double its GDP within a decade. The rapid changes simultaneously excite and unnerve many Mongolians, who hope mining can help pull many out of poverty, but worry it will ravage the environment and further erode the nation's distinctive, nomadic identity.

Third of four parts

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3:21am

Tue May 22, 2012
Asia

Mongolia's Dilemma: Who Gets The Water?

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 10:47 am

Amin-Erdene Galkhuu pumps well water to her family's Bactrian camels in Mongolia's South Gobi region. Herders and mining firms both need water in this arid area.
John Poole NPR

Mongolia, the land of Genghis Khan and nomadic herders, is in the midst of a remarkable transition. Rich in coal, gold and copper, this country of fewer than 3 million people in Central Asia is riding a mineral boom that is expected to more than double its GDP within a decade. The rapid changes simultaneously excite and unnerve many Mongolians, who hope mining can help pull many out of poverty, but worry it will ravage the environment and further erode the nation's distinctive, nomadic identity.

Second of four parts

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2:59am

Mon May 21, 2012
Asia

Mineral-Rich Mongolia Rapidly Becoming 'Minegolia'

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 10:47 am

The mine at Oyu Tolgoi, Turquoise Hill in Mongolian, will be one of the world's largest copper mines in about five years. An employee holds up a small sample of the oxidized copper that gave the mine its name.
John W. Poole NPR

Mongolia, the land of Genghis Khan and nomadic herders, is in the midst of a remarkable transition. Rich in coal, gold and copper, this country of fewer than 3 million people in Central Asia is riding a mineral boom that is expected to more than double its GDP within a decade. The rapid changes simultaneously excite and unnerve many Mongolians, who hope mining can help pull many out of poverty, but worry it will ravage the environment and further erode the nation's distinctive, nomadic identity.

First of four parts

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3:01am

Wed April 25, 2012
Asia

Carmakers In China Rev Up As Industry Shifts East

Originally published on Wed April 25, 2012 6:24 pm

China is now the world's largest market for cars, and the Auto China 2012 car show is now taking place in Beijing. Here, the Denza electric car, a joint creation by Daimler and Chinese manufacturer BYD, is unveiled Monday.
AP

The Beijing auto show runs this week in what is now the world's largest car market, and a crucial one for Detroit companies.

General Motors just announced it will open 600 more dealerships in China, where it sells more cars than it does in the U.S. Last week, Ford announced construction of its fourth Chinese assembly plant.

For longtime American auto executives in China, witnessing the shift in the global auto industry is dramatic.

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5:20am

Tue April 24, 2012
Business

GM To Add 600 Chinese Dealerships In 2012

Originally published on Tue April 24, 2012 8:29 pm

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

General Motors is making a bigger effort in what's become the world's biggest car market. At the Beijing Auto Show this week, GM said it plans to open 600 new dealerships in China this year. GM is trying to grow Chinese sales while they still can.

NPR's Frank Langfitt reports from Shanghai.

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2:51pm

Thu March 29, 2012
Asia

Headed For The Butcher, Chinese Dogs Are Rescued

Originally published on Sat March 31, 2012 8:06 pm

A volunteer feeds one of the dogs rescued from slaughter last December in a stand-off between animal rights activists and dog-meat sellers in central China. Such rescues have been taking place with some regularity in China.
Frank Langfitt NPR

To say that people in China eat dogs is something of a stereotype.

Sure, some still do, but these days, more and more Chinese are buying dogs as pets and treating them like beloved family members.

In the last year, that growing affection has taken a radical turn. Activists have begun stopping trucks along the highway carrying dogs to slaughter and then negotiating their release.

A Last-Minute Rescue

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3:43pm

Thu March 15, 2012
Asia

Provocative Chinese Cartoonists Find An Outlet Online

Originally published on Sat March 17, 2012 6:40 am

In this illustration by a Chinese cartoonist who goes by the name Rebel Pepper, an anglerfish, representing the Chinese Communist Party, hypnotizes smaller fish, representing the Chinese people, with the glowing image of a famous, model soldier — with the implied intention of devouring them while they're distracted.
Courtesy Rebel Pepper

Chinese cartoonists have used the Internet in recent years to take aim at the Communist Party. Using Twitter-like microblogs, they try to slip past censors and skewer their government in ways that would have been unthinkable a generation ago.

One of their targets this month is an old-fashioned Communist propaganda campaign extolling the virtues of Lei Feng, a model People's Liberation Army soldier who was devoted to his fellow workers and China's leaders — and who has been dead for half a century.

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12:01am

Mon March 12, 2012
Asia

iPad Workers: Plant Inspected Hours Before Blast

Originally published on Mon March 12, 2012 1:06 pm

Workers burned during an explosion at an Apple supplier factory in Shanghai are seen at a hospital where they are receiving continued treatment for their injuries. According to the factory, 24 workers were burned in the explosion.
Frank Langfitt NPR

Apple's new iPad goes on sale this Friday, the latest version of a wildly popular product from an iconic company. In the past couple of months, though, Apple has come under criticism for working conditions in Chinese factories that help build iPads.

A New York Times investigation focused on an explosion at an Apple supplier factory last May. In December, another explosion struck a different Apple supplier factory in Shanghai.

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3:36am

Fri March 2, 2012
Asia

Looking For Elephant Ivory? Try China

Originally published on Fri March 2, 2012 8:53 am

A Malaysian customs official examines elephant tusks at a port in Kalang. Malaysia has become an ivory transit hub, with African elephant tusks bound for China. Worldwide, authorities seized more than 5,000 smuggled tusks.
AFP/Getty Images

Armed with tips from animal welfare activists, I recently went on an ivory hunt with my Chinese assistant, Yang, in an antiques market in Beijing.

Activists say China's growing purchasing power is driving global demand for products from vulnerable animals, everything from elephant ivory to rhino horn.

Two huge stone lions stood sentinel outside the four-story market nestled among a forest of buildings off one of Beijing's beltways. In China, vendors usually accost shoppers and try to lure them into stores.

Not here.

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2:43pm

Wed February 15, 2012
Asia

American-Born 'Linderella' Is The Pride Of China

Originally published on Wed February 15, 2012 7:55 pm

New York Knicks star Jeremy Lin (shown here during first-half action against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday) has taken the NBA by storm. Now, Chinese basketball fans are claiming the California native as their own.
Peter J. Thompson MCT /Landov

How do you say "Linsanity" in Chinese? Lin Shuhao feng.

And how do you quantify it? Jeremy Lin has more than a million followers so far on the Chinese version of Twitter.

The legend of Lin, the Asian-American point guard for the New York Knicks whose success story draws comparisons to a fairy tale, continues to grow. On Tuesday night, he scored 27 points, including the winning shot, in the Knicks' victory over the Toronto Raptors.

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12:01am

Thu February 9, 2012
Asia

China Laces Up Its Chuck Taylors

Chuck Taylor All Stars are common on the streets of Shanghai. Xuan Zhihui, 62, a retiree from a state-owned factory, wears her daughter's hand-me-down sneakers, which are 15 years old. She says they're really comfortable.
Frank Langfitt NPR

Stroll along a street in downtown Shanghai for very long, and you're likely to run into someone wearing Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars. One recent afternoon, Xu Jing was heading back from lunch to her job at an ad company in a pair of raspberry-colored Chuck Taylors.

"They have a young image, upbeat and outdoorsy, sporty," said Xu, 27, explaining the appeal. "Young people with an artistic sense prefer Converse."

Xu was accompanied by Chen Xiaolei, a co-worker who owns three pairs of Chuck Taylor high-tops.

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4:00am

Thu January 26, 2012
Asia

Tibetan Areas Rocked By Protest, Chinese Crackdown

Originally published on Thu January 26, 2012 12:37 pm

During a candlelight vigil in Dharamsala, India, on Wednesday, Tibetan Buddhist monks hold pictures of Tibetans they say were shot by Chinese security forces earlier this week.
Angus McDonald AP

Frustrated Tibetans this week staged some of the largest protests against Chinese rule in nearly four years. Chinese security forces responded by opening fire on demonstrators, killing up to four and wounding more than 30, according to Tibetan rights groups.

The demonstrations were inspired — in part — by a disturbing new trend in Tibetan dissent: Tibetan people lighting themselves on fire.

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12:01am

Fri January 20, 2012
Asia

Not-So-Happy New Year: Rail Website Woes In China

Originally published on Fri January 20, 2012 10:33 pm

People line up to buy train tickets at Changsha Railway Station in Changsha, in southern China's Hunan province on Dec. 28, 2011. Million of Chinese are expected to cramp onto China's train network in the coming weeks to return home for the Chinese lunar new year that starts on Jan. 23, 2012.
AP

During China's Lunar New Year holiday, more than 200 million people will travel home. It's the world's largest annual migration, and every year, Chinese tell horror stories about trying to get train tickets.

This season, the holiday falls on Monday, and it was supposed to be different: For the first time, China's rail ministry created a website to reserve seats. But things didn't work out as planned.

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12:01am

Tue January 17, 2012
Asia

China's Rich Consider Leaving Growing Nation

Originally published on Tue January 17, 2012 8:53 pm

Last fall, wealthy Chinese gathered at a Beijing hotel to hear a pitch by Patrick Quinn, the governor of Illinois. He wanted them to invest in a convention center project at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

"You can't have capitalism without capital," Quinn said to the group of potential investors. "So we really are interested in encouraging people from everywhere, particularly here in China ... to consider the state of Illinois as a place to make investments."

The required minimum investment: half a million dollars.

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4:00pm

Wed January 4, 2012
Asia

In China, Curious Case Of Fraud Grows Stranger Still

Doris Phua, chief executive of Da Vinci, answers questions during a press conference in Beijing in July, after CCTV accused it of selling fake furniture at high prices. Later, the company said it paid the CCTV reporter more than $150,000 through a public relations company to halt further stories.
STR AFP/Getty Images

The Da Vinci furniture company showroom in Shanghai looks like a salon in Versailles. The price tag on a gilt-covered, Italian-made grandfather clock: more than $40,000.

So it was big news last summer when China Central Television — the government's flagship network known as CCTV — reported that some of Da Vinci's ornate furniture didn't come from Italy, but from a common factory in South China.

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3:17am

Mon January 2, 2012
Asia

Desire For Stability Keeps China, N. Korea Allies

Originally published on Mon January 2, 2012 5:50 pm

Trucks loaded with Chinese goods head across the Yalu Bridge and into North Korea one day after the memorial service for the late leader Kim Jong Il, at the Chinese North Korean border town of Dandong on December 30, 2011.
Mark Ralston AFP/Getty Images

Chinese leaders made a rare condolence visit to North Korea's embassy in Beijing last month.

Broadcast on China Central Television, the leaders – dressed in black suits — bowed in unison towards the portrait of Kim Jong Il. Why show so much respect to a man who caused so much misery?

One reason: fear of something worse.

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4:00am

Tue December 13, 2011
Asia

After Boom, China's Property Market Heads Lower

In recent years, China's real estate market has boomed. A three-bedroom apartment in Shanghai overlooking the river would cost more than $3 million. But that's beginning to change. The slide comes as the world's most dynamic economy grapples with other challenges, including massive local government debt and slowing growth.

12:01am

Mon December 12, 2011
Asia

Despite Growth, China Too Faces Debt Problems

Originally published on Mon December 12, 2011 8:32 pm

Cui Jinmin oversees an abandoned strip of unfinished highway in western China's Shaanxi province. Cui says the government stopped paying his workers in April and they went home in July.
Frank Langfitt/NPR

As the U.S. and Europe have struggled with debt, China has seemed to be largely immune. This fall, the European Union even asked China for financial help, but China has a debt problem of its own.

Over the past several years, local governments have run up at least $1.5 trillion in bank loans for infrastructure projects intended to prop up the nation's economic growth. Analysts think much of that money will never be repaid.

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4:00am

Mon November 28, 2011
Sports

NFL Tries To Coax Chinese Into Liking Football

Chinese love World Cup Soccer and NBA basketball. Selling them NFL football has proven much more difficult. On Sunday, the NFL set up an elaborate, interactive exhibition outside a Shanghai stadium in an attempt to build a fan base in the world's most populous nation.

4:00am

Fri November 25, 2011
Asia

Why Is China's Baby Care Industry Booming?

Originally published on Fri November 25, 2011 5:31 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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