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.

Pages

9:28am

Wed October 30, 2013
Parallels

Someone In Central China Really Stinks At Photoshop

Originally published on Wed October 30, 2013 11:32 am

In a photo originally posted to a county government website, local officials purportedly visit a 100-year-old woman in Anhui province. They sure are tall, aren't they? And what happened to the legs of the guy on the right?
Ningguo Civil Affairs Department via Chinanews.com

Local Chinese government propagandists have outdone themselves in what seems to be the increasingly competitive category of bad Photoshop.

This week's entry hails from Ningguo County in central China's Anhui province. The workmanship is so bad, it seems almost, well, effortless.

Read more

1:12am

Wed October 23, 2013
Parallels

Desperate Chinese Villagers Turn To Self-Immolation

Originally published on Wed October 23, 2013 9:07 am

Relatives of He Mengqing walk in front of his house, which the local government has slated for demolition. The rice farmer from Chenzhou in China's Hunan province rejected a government offer of compensation for his land; he set himself on fire when officials came for him.
Frank Langfitt NPR

In order to turn China into an urban nation, local governments have demolished tens of millions of homes over the past decade. Homeowners have often fought back, blocking heavy machinery and battling officials.

In recent years, resistance has taken a disturbing turn: Since 2009, at least 53 people across China have lit themselves on fire to protest the destruction of their homes, according to human rights and news reports.

Read more

2:31am

Mon October 14, 2013
Asia

China Experiences Surprise Drop In Exports

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with a slide in Chinese exports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Chinese exports showed a surprise drop last month, according to government figures.

As NPR's Frank Langfitt reports, the September numbers underscore some of the challenges facing the world's second-largest economy.

Read more

3:08pm

Tue October 8, 2013
Parallels

Asian Allies' Anxieties Rise Amid Washington Paralysis

Originally published on Tue October 8, 2013 5:24 pm

President Obama listens as Chinese President Xi Jinping answers a question after a bilateral meeting in California on June 7.
Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images

The partial shutdown of the U.S. government has all sorts of costs — not only in the United States, but also overseas. President Obama had to cancel a trip this week to visit four nations in Asia so he could stay in Washington to deal with the political crisis. That has disappointed — even worried — some of America's friends in the region, who are counting on the United States to stand up to an increasingly assertive China.

The disappointment over the president's no-show in Asia was palpable.

Read more

1:10pm

Wed September 25, 2013
Parallels

For Some NYU Students, A Sweet Deal To Study ... In Shanghai

Originally published on Tue October 8, 2013 7:58 am

The university is currently located on the leafy campus of East China Normal University. Next year, NYU Shanghai will move to a 15-story building in the city's financial district.
Frank Langfitt NPR

First-year college student Stephanie Ulan, from Queens, N.Y., had her sights set on New York University, in the heart of Manhattan's Greenwich Village.

She got her wish — sort of.

At first, the school offered her a generous scholarship but told her and her father they'd still have to take out big loans.

"My father is 62 years old," says Ulan, who plans to major in international relations. "There was a big scene and he flipped out and he was, like, 'I can't do that.' "

Read more

1:24am

Fri September 20, 2013
Parallels

Visit Paris And Venice In The Same Afternoon (In China)

Originally published on Fri September 20, 2013 12:54 pm

Sky City, a replica of Paris, is a 40-minute drive from Hangzhou in East China's Zhejiang province. The rich people that developers hoped would move here never materialized.
Frank Langfitt NPR

Want to visit Paris and Venice in the same afternoon?

You can, if you're in China.

Chinese developers have for years built residential communities that mimic famous European cities and towns. They are the subject of a new book, Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China.

Read more

9:06am

Wed September 18, 2013
Asia

China's Debate: Must The Party Follow The Constitution?

Originally published on Wed September 18, 2013 6:01 pm

A police officer blocks photos from being taken outside Zhongnanhai, the central headquarters for the Communist Party of China, in Beijing last year.
Mark Ralston AFP/Getty Images

Several weeks back, officials with the East China University of Political Science and Law met one of its professors, Zhang Xuezhong, at his favorite hangout, a coffeehouse in Shanghai.

Sitting in a private room, they told him he was suspended from teaching for articles he had posted on the Internet. In them, Zhang had argued that China's government needs to build a real rule of law — one to which even the party is accountable — as well as a system of checks and balances.

One way to start, he says, is to live up to the promises made in China's 1982 constitution.

Read more

11:57am

Thu August 29, 2013
Parallels

Too Weird To Be True? In China, You Never Can Tell

Originally published on Wed October 9, 2013 3:47 pm

A zoo in central China's Henan province swapped a dog — a Tibetan mastiff like the one shown here — for a lion, in another story that recently swept Chinese cyberspace.
Ed Jones AFP/Getty Images

Here are some of the recent news stories that went viral in China that you may have missed:

Read more

3:01pm

Fri August 23, 2013
Asia

Corruption Trial Not Working Out As Communist Party Had Hoped

Originally published on Fri August 23, 2013 7:12 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

China's Communist Party had hoped a high profile corruption trial this week would send a message that the party punishes its own and operates under the rule of law. But so far, the trail of former Politburo member Bo Xilai hasn't quite worked out that way. NPR's Frank Langfitt reports on how China's biggest case in decades is toying with the expectations of the millions of people following the trial.

Read more

11:56am

Thu August 22, 2013
The Two-Way

Bo Xilai's Corruption Trial In China Kicks Off With A Twist

Originally published on Thu August 22, 2013 5:07 pm

In this photo released by the Jinan Intermediate People's Court, Bo Xilai appears Thursday on the first day of his trial in eastern China's Shandong province. Interestingly, he was photographed flanked by two very tall policemen.
AP

In China, recent Communist Party show trials have featured cowed defendants acknowledging their crimes and offering apologies. Not this one.

The country's biggest trial in decades kicked off Thursday with the defendant, former politburo member Bo Xilai, denying guilt, claiming his confession was coerced and branding the testimony of one of his accusers — in this case his wife — "laughable."

Read more

12:55am

Thu August 22, 2013
Parallels

China's College Grads Face A New Reality: Fewer Jobs

Originally published on Thu August 22, 2013 5:03 pm

Thousands descended on a job fair in Shanghai earlier this year. This summer nearly 7 million people graduated from Chinese colleges, but jobs are harder to find than in previous years.
Frank Langfitt/NPR

It's been about two months since college graduation, and more than 3 million graduates from this year and last still don't have jobs, according to government officials.

That's not in the U.S., but in China.

China is home to the world's fastest-growing major economy. But with nearly 7 million college graduates this year, a record number, finding work is tough and a worry for the ruling Communist Party.

Read more

3:11pm

Thu August 15, 2013
The Record

An American Headliner In China: Metallica's Shanghai Debut

Originally published on Fri August 16, 2013 8:22 am

Metallica at a packed concert this week at Shanghai's Mercedes-Benz Arena.
Ross Halfin

August is shaping up to be American music month in Shanghai. Metallica, the legendary heavy metal band, has just wrapped up its long-awaited China debut with two packed shows at the city's Mercedes-Benz Arena. This weekend, Limp Bizkit headlines a two-day festival. Next week, Aerosmith plays a Shanghai soccer stadium followed by a concert by Pitbull, the Cuban-American rapper from Miami.

Read more

11:59am

Wed August 7, 2013
Parallels

'It's Too Hot': Shanghai Wilts In Record-Setting Heat Wave

Originally published on Wed August 7, 2013 4:41 pm

People cool off Wednesday in a pool in Shanghai, where temperatures reached an all-time record: 105.4 degrees.
Frank Langfitt NPR

Temperatures Wednesday in Shanghai hit an all-time high: 105.4 degrees, according to officials here. It was the hottest day in 140 years, since the government began keeping records.

The Chinese megacity is in the midst of its hottest summer ever.

Usually bustling streets are near empty at noon and thousands have gone to hospitals for relief. To get a feel for how people are handling the heat wave, I waded into a public pool in the city's Hankou district. By early afternoon, the temperature was 98 degrees in the shade, according to the thermometer I brought along.

Read more

3:48pm

Fri July 5, 2013
Parallels

Gatsby-Like Extravagance And Wealth ... In Communist China

Originally published on Tue July 9, 2013 10:37 am

A waiter delivers glasses of wine to guests at a luxury hotel bar near the Bund in Shanghai, on Sept. 8, 2012.
Aly Song Reuters /Landov

12:03pm

Fri June 28, 2013
Parallels

China's 'Shadow Banking' And How It Threatens The Economy

A woman walks past the headquarters of the People's Bank of China (PBOC), the central bank, in Beijing.
Jason Lee Reuters/Landov

Last week was a wild one for China's economy.

Interest rates on the loans that banks make to one another soared to alarming levels, and lending began to freeze up. Shanghai stocks nose-dived, taking Asian markets and the Dow, briefly, with them.

Things have calmed down, but the crisis showed how China's new leaders are trying to confront threats to the health of the world's second-largest economy.

Many here see it as the first shot in a long battle to reform a once-successful economic model that is now running out of gas.

Read more

6:51am

Tue June 18, 2013
Parallels

'It's Christmas In June': China Revels In NSA Leaks Story

Originally published on Tue June 18, 2013 11:52 am

A supporter holds a sign with pictures of Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked details about the agency's surveillance programs, and Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan during a protest outside the Consulate General of the United States in Hong Kong on June 15. Snowden has been holed up in Hong Kong since the leaks.
Kin Cheung AP

Earlier this year, the U.S. government accused China's military of running a massive cyberspying campaign to steal business secrets from American companies.

"We've made it very clear to China and some other state actors that, you know, we expect them to follow international norms and abide by international rules," President Obama told ABC News in March.

Read more

2:30am

Mon June 10, 2013
National Security

Confessed NSA Leaker Hole Up In Hong Kong Hotel

Originally published on Mon June 10, 2013 5:08 am

The Guardian has identified its source for a series of reports it published in recent days on secret U.S. surveillance activity. The paper says the source is Edward Snowden, a former technical assistant for the CIA who now works for a private-sector defense and technology consulting firm.

10:22am

Tue June 4, 2013
The Two-Way

Rubber Ducky, You're (Not) The One. Hong Kong Quacker Spawns Others

Originally published on Tue June 4, 2013 1:39 pm

The original inflatable duck by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman floats in Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour.
Li Peng Xinhua /Landov

Perhaps it was inevitable. Given the huge popularity of the six-story, yellow rubber ducky that's been bobbing around in Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour, companies in a number of mainland Chinese cities have decided to copy it.

New ducks have popped up in the central city of Wuhan, the ancient city of Xi'an, the northern port city of Tianjin and Hengdian, a town in Zhejiang province that is home to a massive movie studio.

Read more

5:17am

Mon June 3, 2013
The Two-Way

More Than 100 Dead In China Poultry Plant Blaze

Originally published on Mon June 3, 2013 6:42 am

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, smoke rises from a poultry farm owned by Jilin Baoyuanfeng Poultry Company in Jilin province on Monday.
Wang Haofei AP

A fire at a poultry processing plant fire in northeast China on Monday has killed at least 119 people, according to the Jilin province government. The blaze is one of the country's deadliest industrial accidents in recent years.

Flames broke out a little after 6 a.m. and the sprawling, low-slung plant filled with dark smoke, witnesses said. About 300 workers were inside the facility owned by the Jilin Baoyuanfeng Poultry Company in Mishazi Township of Dehui City.

Read more

1:52pm

Wed May 29, 2013
Parallels

In China, Customer Service And Efficiency Begin To Blossom

Originally published on Wed May 29, 2013 5:56 pm

A couple waits for a high-speed train in the Chinese city of Qinhuangdao. Modern infrastructure and the expanding private sector have greatly increased efficiency and customer service in many parts of Chinese life.
Ed Jones AFP/Getty Images

China's infamous bureaucracy has bedeviled people for ages, but in recent years, daily life in some major Chinese cities has become far more efficient.

For instance, when I worked in Beijing in the 1990s, many reporters had drivers. It wasn't because they didn't drive, but because they needed someone to deal with China's crippling bureaucracy.

I had a man named Old Zhao, who would drive around for days to pay our office bills at various government utility offices. Zhao would sit in line for hours, often only to be abused by functionaries.

Read more

Pages