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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2:00am

Thu January 26, 2012
Asia

Chinese Forces Move Against Tibetan Protesters

Originally published on Thu January 26, 2012 10:37 am

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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10:01pm

Thu January 19, 2012
Asia

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

Originally published on Fri January 20, 2012 8:33 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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10:01pm

Mon January 16, 2012
Asia

China's Rich Consider Leaving Growing Nation

Originally published on Tue January 17, 2012 6:53 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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1:00pm

Fri January 13, 2012
Asia

In China, Apple Halts Sales Of New iPhone

Originally published on Fri January 13, 2012 3:08 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Apple has halted store sales of its iPhone 4S in China after fights erupted outside its flagship outlet in Beijing.

As NPR's Frank Langfitt reports, scalpers and angry would-be customers marked the phone's Chinese launch.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: At the Apple store in Beijing's Sanlitun shopping district, scalpers scuffled overnight causing the store to keep its door shut. Some in the crowd responded by hurling eggs at the windows.

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2:00pm

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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1:17am

Mon January 2, 2012
Asia

Desire For Stability Keeps China, N. Korea Allies

Originally published on Mon January 2, 2012 3:50 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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2:00am

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.

10:01pm

Sun December 11, 2011
Asia

Despite Growth, China Too Faces Debt Problems

Originally published on Mon December 12, 2011 6:32 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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2:00am

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.

2:00am

Fri November 25, 2011
Asia

Why Is China's Baby Care Industry Booming?

Originally published on Fri November 25, 2011 3:31 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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10:01pm

Tue November 22, 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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1:51pm

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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2:00am

Thu November 3, 2011
Economy

China Warily Eyes E.U. Bailout

Originally published on Thu November 3, 2011 5:54 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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1:56am

Wed November 2, 2011
Asia

At IKEA In Shanghai, Do-It-Yourself Matchmaking

Originally published on Wed November 2, 2011 6:23 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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2:39am

Mon October 31, 2011
7 Billion And Counting

Nations Grow Populations, And Face New Problems

Originally published on Wed November 2, 2011 10:34 am

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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12:47pm

Tue October 25, 2011
Asia

Boom In Shadow Financing Exacts High Toll In China

Originally published on Tue October 25, 2011 6:26 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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3:23pm

Thu October 6, 2011
Asia

Something's Fishy About Chinese Hairy Crabs

Originally published on Tue October 11, 2011 8:57 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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10:01pm

Sun October 2, 2011
Asia

China's Red-Hot Growth Gives Policymakers Pause

Originally published on Tue October 4, 2011 5:19 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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10:01pm

Mon September 12, 2011
Asia

In Northern Japan, Residents Face A New Reality

Originally published on Tue September 13, 2011 6:22 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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11:25am

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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