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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5:20am

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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12:01am

Wed November 23, 2011
Asia

Made In China Doesn't Mean Cheap In China

Workers at the Hong Kong Apple Store hand over Apple iPhone 4s to customers on Nov. 11. Some goods made in China cost more in China than they do abroad.
Aaron Tam/AFP/Getty

China has made a fortune producing cheap products that sell for low prices around the world.

Yet many high-end goods manufactured in China –- everything from iPads to Coach bags — actually cost more in China than they do in the United States.

To figure out why, I recently visited a luxury shopping mall in Beijing with Professor Nie Huihua, who teaches economics at the People's University.

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3:51pm

Wed November 9, 2011
Asia

Money Pours In To Help Chinese Artist Pay Tax Bill

Outspoken Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei (shown inside his compound on the outskirts of Beijing) was detained by the government for nearly three months. Now, the government says he owes $2.4 million in taxes and fines. Supporters are sending him money, raising nearly $1 million so far.
Frank Langfitt NPR

The Chinese government slapped artist Ai Weiwei — one of China's most famous dissidents — with a $2.4 million tax bill last week. The move was widely seen as punishment for Ai's relentless criticism of the Communist Party.

Since then, in an outpouring of support rarely seen for a government critic, thousands of people have loaned Ai nearly $1 million to help pay the fine.

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4:00am

Thu November 3, 2011
Economy

China Warily Eyes E.U. Bailout

Originally published on Thu November 3, 2011 7:54 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. To understand the European debt crisis, it helps to keep track of both the short-term and the long-term. In the short-term, Europeans have agreed on a bailout deal that among other things would cut the debts of Greece. It's being held up by the Greek prime minister's plan to hold a referendum on austerity measures. Europeans have told Greece it's got to decide soon if it wants to be part of the eurozone or not.

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3:56am

Wed November 2, 2011
Asia

At IKEA In Shanghai, Do-It-Yourself Matchmaking

Originally published on Wed November 2, 2011 8:23 pm

An elderly Chinese man and woman chat at a park in Shanghai. Hundreds of elderly Shanghai residents make their way to IKEA twice a week for an informal lonely hearts club.
Mark Ralston AFP/Getty Images

If you're retired, single and looking for love in Shanghai, try IKEA.

Twice a week, hundreds of Shanghai residents who have formed an informal lonely hearts club of sorts gather at the cafeteria of the Swedish furniture megastore for free coffee and conversation.

The pensioners begin arriving around 1 in the afternoon and fill nearly 20 tables in the store cafeteria. They sit for hours drinking coffee, gossiping and subtly checking each other out.

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4:39am

Mon October 31, 2011
7 Billion And Counting

Nations Grow Populations, And Face New Problems

Originally published on Wed November 2, 2011 12:34 pm

Lujiazui, Shanghai's financial district, includes the world's third- and sixth-tallest buildings. The city's population is 23 million.

Frank Langfitt NPR

NPR's Frank Langfitt has spent the past year reporting in two countries where the populations and the problems could not be more different: South Sudan and China.

The best way to travel in South Sudan is by plane. That's because, in a nation nearly the size of Texas, there are hardly any paved roads.

Earlier this year, I flew to Akobo County, near the Ethiopian border. On the hour-plus flight, I saw cattle herders and acacia trees, but mostly empty landscape. There was little sign of the 21st century — or the 20th.

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2:47pm

Tue October 25, 2011
Asia

Boom In Shadow Financing Exacts High Toll In China

Originally published on Tue October 25, 2011 8:26 pm

At least 80 business owners have abandoned factories like this one in Wenzhou, China's entrepreneurial capital, because they have run up exorbitant debts to the city's loan sharks and underground lenders.

Frank Langfitt NPR

In recent weeks, at least 80 business owners have fled Wenzhou in eastern China and gone into hiding because they can't pay crushing debts to the city's empire of underground lending firms and loan sharks.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao became so concerned that he flew to Wenzhou earlier in October to try to keep the problem from spreading.

The city's credit crisis highlights some of the flaws — and potential risks — of the banking system in the world's second-largest economy.

Business Owners Trapped By Debt

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5:23pm

Thu October 6, 2011
Asia

Something's Fishy About Chinese Hairy Crabs

Originally published on Tue October 11, 2011 10:57 am

Hairy crabs are extremely popular in China. These were in a market in the eastern province of Jiangsu.

China Photos Getty Images

Fake products permeate nearly every corner of China's economy. Earlier this year, the trend seemed to reach a new low when phony Apple stores were exposed in southwestern China.

Each fall, the fakery even extends to the world of seafood and East China's Yangcheng Lake, which is just a short train ride from Shanghai. Yangcheng is home to what are reputed to be China's tastiest and most expensive hairy crabs.

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12:01am

Mon October 3, 2011
Asia

China's Red-Hot Growth Gives Policymakers Pause

Originally published on Tue October 4, 2011 7:19 am

Earlier this year, Shanghai tried to slow down real estate sales by restricting some deals. It's part of a broader Chinese government plan to slow the country's staggering growth.
Eugene Hoshiko AP

The U.S. economy is struggling to grow. The European Union is trying to contain a debt crisis. And, in a case of bad timing, the world's fastest-growing major economy, China, is trying to slow down.

Shanghai has been one of the world's hottest real estate markets, but it's too hot for Chinese officials who are fighting high inflation and what some fear is a housing bubble.

Earlier this year, the Shanghai government tried to slow down real estate sales by restricting people from outside the city from buying more than one property.

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12:01am

Tue September 13, 2011
Asia

In Northern Japan, Residents Face A New Reality

Originally published on Tue September 13, 2011 8:22 pm

A 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck Japan offshore on March 11, setting into motion a tsunami that engulfed large parts of northeastern Japan and triggered a nuclear meltdown at a power plant in Fukushima. On March 26, a man walks among debris in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, Japan.
Athit Perawongmetha Getty Images

Miyo Tatebayashi used to live about three miles from the Fukushima nuclear plant, which suffered a crippling accident when the March 11 tsunami struck Japan.

On a recent day, she had just returned from a government-organized trip to the radiation zone in Fukushima prefecture along Japan's northeast coast. She had wanted to see her house.

"When I got out of the bus with my daughter, we were smiling. 'It's there,' " she recalls saying. "But when we actually saw our place, I thought, 'Oh, there is no way.' "

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1:25pm

Tue September 6, 2011
Asia

After Nuclear Mishap, Japan Debates Energy Future

Japan faces a dilemma: the country lacks natural resources and relies heavily on nuclear power. But in the wake of the nuclear accident in March, 70 percent of Japanese now say they want to phase out atomic energy.

It's a huge, long-term challenge. Even backers of renewable energy say it could take two generations for Japan to become nuclear free.

But Japan was taking action even before the accident at the Fukushima power plant on the country's northeast coast.

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3:24pm

Mon August 29, 2011
Asia

In Japan, Next Prime Minister Faces Many Skeptics

Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda was chosen leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan on Monday, Aug. 29, 2011. That all but assures his selection as Japan's next prime minister.
Hiro Komae AP

Japan is about to get a new prime minster — the sixth in five years.

As early as Tuesday, Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda could formally get the job.

He all but captured the post Monday when he won the leadership race of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan. The challenges he faces will be huge. They include helping Japan recover from last spring's devastating nuclear and natural disasters and winning over a skeptical public.

That skepticism was on display Monday.

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12:01am

Wed August 24, 2011
Asia

After Quake, Japanese Fishing Port Remains At Risk

Most of Kesennuma's large fishing boats either survived the tsunami or have been repaired. But many do not move from the dock, because most of the city's fish-processing factories still lie in ruins.
Frank Langfitt NPR

At first glance, the Japanese fishing port of Kesennuma looks like it's making a comeback from last March's devastating tsunami. A half-dozen fishing boats arrive one morning in this city of 70,000 and unload tons of bonito onto a partially rebuilt port.

The fish roll down a conveyor, beneath a fresh-water shower, and splash into plastic bins filled with ice water. Mitsuo Iwabuchi, a wholesaler bidding on the catch, says the port is improving, but the infrastructure that drives it, including scores of fish-processing and ice-making factories, still lies in ruins.

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3:07pm

Fri August 19, 2011
Asia

In Japan, Restoring Photos For Tsunami Victims

Becci Manson has spent the past few months on Japan's northeast coast restoring photos damaged by the tsunami.
Frank Langfitt NPR

Each week, tsunami survivors gather at temporary housing centers in the city of Yamada along Japan's northeast coast. They sing songs to cheer themselves up and comb through salvaged photos.

One morning, Miyoko Fukushi finds an old picture from the opening day of her daughter's elementary school. It's a formal shot of the students' mothers, wearing kimonos with their hands in their laps. Fukushi, 77, points to a younger version of herself.

"I was chubbier when I was young," she says with a laugh.

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9:07am

Sun August 7, 2011
World

Nuclear Power Criticized On Hiroshima Anniversary

Saturday, Japan commemorated the 66th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima, but the ceremony was different this year.

In March, a massive earthquake triggered a meltdown at the Japanese nuclear plant in Fukushima. The plant continues to leak radiation in the worst atomic accident since Chernobyl. Saturday's ceremony focused on the nuclear attack on Japan in 1945, but the country's ongoing nuclear disaster loomed large.

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