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.

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

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.

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.

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.' "

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.

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.

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.

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.

Over the weekend, Japan commemorated the 66th anniversary of the American bombing of Hiroshima. Some used the event to protest nuclear energy. This spring's massive earthquake caused a meltdown at a nuclear plant north of Tokyo. The recent disaster has many Japanese re-thinking their nation's relationship with nuclear energy.

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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