Louisa Lim

Beijing Correspondent Louisa Lim is currently attending the University of Michigan as a Knight-Wallace Fellow. She will return to her regular role in 2014.

Based in Beijing, NPR foreign correspondent Louisa Lim finds China a hugely diverse, vibrant, fascinating place. "Everywhere you look and everyone you talk to has a fascinating story," she notes, adding that she's "spoiled with choices" of stories to cover. In her reports, Lim takes "NPR listeners to places they never knew existed. I want to give them an idea of how China is changing and what that might mean for them."

Lim opened NPR's Shanghai bureau in February 2006, but she's reported for NPR from up Tibetan glaciers and down the shaft of a Shaanxi coalmine. She made a very rare reporting trip to North Korea, covered illegal abortions in Guangxi province, and worked on the major multimedia series on religion in China "New Believers: A Religious Revolution in China." Lim has been part of NPR teams who multiple awards, including the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, a Peabody and two Edward R. Murrow awards, for their coverage of the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 and the Beijing Olympics. She's been honored in the Human Rights Press Awards, as well as winning prizes for her multimedia work.

In 1995, Lim moved to Hong Kong and worked at the Eastern Express newspaper until its demise six months later and then for TVB Pearl, the local television station. Eventually Lim joined the BBC, working first for five years at the World Service in London, and then as a correspondent at the BBC in Beijing for almost three years.

Lim found her path into journalism after graduating with a degree in Modern Chinese studies from Leeds University in England. She worked as an editor, polisher, and translator at a state-run publishing company in China, a job that helped her strengthen her Chinese. Simultaneously, she began writing for a magazine and soon realized her talents fit perfectly with journalism.

NPR London correspondent Rob Gifford, who previously spent six years reporting from China for NPR, thinks that Lim is uniquely suited for his former post. "Not only does Louisa have a sharp journalistic brain," Gifford says, "but she sees stories from more than one angle, and can often open up a whole new understanding of an issue through her reporting. By listening to Louisa's reports, NPR listeners will certainly get a feel for what 21st century China is like. It is no longer a country of black and white, and the complexity is important, a complexity that you always feel in Louisa's intelligent, nuanced reporting."

Out of all of her reporting, Lim says she most enjoys covering stories that are quirky or slightly offbeat. However, she gravitates towards reporting on arts stories with a deeper significance. For example, early in her tenure at NPR, Lim highlighted a musical on stage in Seoul, South Korea, based on a North Korean prison camp. The play, and Lim's piece, highlighted the ignorance of many South Koreans of the suffering of their northern neighbors.

Married with a son and a daughter, Lim recommends any NPR listeners travelling to Shanghai stop by a branch of her husband's Yunnan restaurant, Southern Barbarian, where they can snack on deep fried bumblebees, a specialty from that part of southwest China. In Beijing, her husband owns and runs what she calls "the first and best fish and chip shop in China", Fish Nation.

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1:20am

Wed January 9, 2013
Asia

Become A Successful Chinese Bureaucrat, In 5 Easy Steps

Originally published on Wed January 9, 2013 6:16 pm

The Civil Servant's Notebook, which recently was translated into English." href="/post/become-successful-chinese-bureaucrat-5-easy-steps" class="noexit lightbox">
Former civil servant Wang Xiaofang is the author of 13 books on "bureaucracy literature," including The Civil Servant's Notebook, which recently was translated into English.
Louisa Lim NPR

Forget Fifty Shades of Grey. In China, "bureaucracy lit" is flying off bookstore shelves. With the books' stories of Machiavellian office politics, they're read avidly, both as entertainment and as how-to guides for aspiring civil servants.

So what is the secret to success in the corridors of power?

Here is a five-point guide to success, with tips gleaned from the pioneers of bureaucracy lit.

Lesson 1: Cultivate your connections.

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2:31pm

Mon January 7, 2013
Asia

China Pledges Reforms To Labor Camps, But Offers Few Details

Originally published on Mon January 7, 2013 6:23 pm

Ren Jianyu poses for a photograph at a restaurant in Chongqing, China, on Nov. 19, 2012, after being freed from a labor camp. The village official was sentenced to a "re-education through labor" camp after he criticized the government.
STR Reuters/Landov

China has indicated that it will stop handing down sentences to its controversial labor camps, which allow detention without trial for up to four years. According to Chinese media, some 160,000 prisoners were held in "re-education centers" at the end of 2008.

Critics of the system greeted the announcement — which was slim on details — with cautious optimism.

Pressure to change the system has been mounting after a number of high-profile cases, including that of Ren Jianyu, who had been a young village official.

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12:52pm

Mon December 10, 2012
Asia

Hunger Still Haunts North Korea, Citizens Say

Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 6:44 pm

The U.N. says food supplies in North Korea have increased, but citizens who spoke to NPR say many people are going hungry. In this photo from Aug. 13, workers stand next to a field that was damaged by flooding in Songchon County, North Korea.
David Guttenfelder AP

While North Korea has long struggled with dire food shortages, the United Nations now assesses its food situation as being the best in many years. But NPR has had unusual access to five North Koreans in China, who paint a dramatically different, and alarming, picture.

Even as North Korea mourned its leader Kim Jong Il last December, one surprising thing was on people's minds: fish. State-run television showed people lining up in shops; the dear leader's last wish, apparently, was to provide fish to his people.

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1:20am

Mon December 10, 2012
Asia

A Tumultuous Year, Seen Through North Korean Eyes

Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 5:39 pm

North Korean soldiers march during a military parade to mark 100 years since the birth of North Korea's founder Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang on April 15. It was supposed to be the year North Korea would become a "strong and prosperous" nation. That hasn't exactly been the case.
Pedro Ugarte AFP/Getty Images

North Korea is preparing to launch a long-range rocket as it rounds off a tumultuous year marked by the sudden death of leader Kim Jong Il last December, the ascension of his 20-something son, and the humiliating failure of a rocket launch in April.

NPR recently interviewed five North Koreans in a northern Chinese city, gaining a rare glimpse of that eventful year through North Korean eyes. They were all visiting China legally, having left North Korea within the past few months.

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9:11am

Wed December 5, 2012
The Two-Way

China's Communists Declare War ... On Boring Meetings

Originally published on Wed December 5, 2012 7:14 pm

Must ... stay .... awake: A Chinese paramilitary police officer yawns and his colleagues fall asleep while then-President Hu Jintao delivers a speech at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Dec. 18, 2008.
Andy Wong AP

Suffer from insomnia? The droning rhythm of a Chinese Communist official reading a work report out loud will likely do the trick.

It certainly does for many party members: Just 10 minutes into any party meeting, look down the serried ranks of the attendees, and you'll spot the dozers and snoozers, napping away, heads lolling lazily toward their neighbors.

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3:13am

Wed November 28, 2012
Asia

Will China's First Lady Outshine Her Husband?

Originally published on Thu November 29, 2012 1:03 am

A famous singer, a major general in the army and an AIDS activist, Peng Liyuan is expected to take on yet another role soon: first lady of China. Peng has been married for more than two decades to Xi Jinping, China's newly anointed leader.
Xinhua/Landov

4:17am

Mon November 12, 2012
Asia

China's Next Leader Has A Soft Spot For Iowa Town

Originally published on Mon November 12, 2012 10:50 am

China's vice president, Xi Jinping, who is poised to become the country's new leader, is widely traveled and stayed briefly in Muscatine, Iowa, in the 1980s. He returned again in February of this year and met some of the people he knew from his earlier visit. Xi, right, is shown greeting Muscatine resident Eleanor Dvorchak.
Kevin E. Schmidt AP

China is inching toward anointing a new party leader later this week: Xi Jinping, the current vice-president.

In that role, he's visited forty-one countries, traveling more widely than any other Chinese leader-to-be. And in all his globetrotting, he's kept a soft spot for the small town of Muscatine, Iowa.

Xi returned to Muscatine this February, twenty-seven years after his first visit, when he was a young government official.

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3:44am

Sun November 11, 2012
Asia

Recording The Untold Stories Of China's Great Famine

Originally published on Sun November 11, 2012 7:50 pm

Shu Qiao in front of the memorial (on the left side) he erected to the 32 victims of the famine in Shuangjing village, in the central province of Henan. The memorial is part of the Folk Memory Project, which records the stories of Chinese peasants who lived through the Great Famine a half-century ago.
Courtesy of Shu Qiao

Second of a two-part series. Find the first part here.

A young man trudges doggedly around his village, notebook in hand, fringe flopping over his glasses. He goes from door to door, calling on the elderly.

The young man has one main question: Who died in our village during the Great Famine?

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1:16am

Fri November 9, 2012
Asia

For China's Rising Leader, A Cave Was Once Home

Originally published on Sun November 11, 2012 7:47 pm

Xi Jinping (left) who is poised to become China's next leader, spent seven years living in a cave home in the 1960s and '70s after his father fell from power.
Lan Hongguang Xinhua /Landov

Far from the political theater of China's Communist Party Congress in Beijing this week is a cave that the country's next leader once called home.

Just 15 at the time, Xi Jinping was sent by his family in Beijing to the remote rural village Liangjiahe in the hills of Shaanxi Province, hundreds of miles away, where for seven years he lived in a cave scooped out of the yellow loess hillsides.

He arrived there in 1968, after his father, a revolutionary fighter and former vice premier, had fallen from political favor.

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11:32am

Thu November 8, 2012
Asia

Highly Scripted, China Moves Toward New Leaders

Originally published on Thu November 8, 2012 6:31 pm

Chinese Communist Party leaders attend the opening session of the 18th Communist Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on Thursday. The meeting marks the beginning of a once-in-a-decade transfer of power.
Alexander F. Yuan AP

Two days after the U.S. election, another major political development is unfolding on the other side of the world. China began its once-in-a-decade transition of power on Thursday with the opening of its 18th Communist Party Congress.

With its lack of personalities or political platforms, it is almost diametrically opposed to the hurly-burly of U.S. elections. In Beijing, the message was about fighting corruption and keeping the Communist Party in power.

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5:55am

Wed November 7, 2012
Asia

China Greets Obama's Re-Election With Muted Relief

Originally published on Wed November 7, 2012 6:48 pm

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In China, President Obama's re-election has been greeted with muted relief, as NPR's Louisa Lim reports from Beijing.

LOUISA LIM, BYLINE: As the vote closed in the U.S., ballots were still being cast in Beijing at a mock voting booth at the U.S. embassy's election party. For Chinese students like Lily Zhang and Zhang Weiwen, the novelty of voting was a heady experience.

LILY ZHANG: It was great. The first time I vote for the American president. That's very amazing and I'm very honored.

LIM: So who did you vote for?

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9:09am

Fri November 2, 2012
China: Change Or Crisis

China's Assertive Behavior Makes Neighbors Wary

Originally published on Fri November 2, 2012 8:20 pm

China is currently involved in several disputes with its neighbors over small islands, many of them uninhabited. Here, Chinese fishing boats sail off the island province of Hainan in the South China Sea in July.
AP

As China's global stature grows, Beijing appears to be flexing its muscles more frequently on the international stage. As part of NPR's series on China this week, correspondents Louisa Lim and Frank Langfitt are looking at this evolving foreign policy. From Beijing, Louisa examines the forces driving China's policy, while Frank reports on why China's neighbors are feeling increasingly edgy.

By Louisa Lim

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10:36am

Tue October 30, 2012
China: Change Or Crisis

In China, A Ceaseless Quest To Silence Dissent

Originally published on Tue October 30, 2012 9:06 pm

A bloodied woman is helped by demonstrators after clashes with police in a protest against an industrial waste pipeline in Qidong, Jiangsu province, on July 28. The Chinese government devotes enormous resources to suppressing dissent, but opposition to government policies is increasingly common.
Carlos Barria Reuters/Landov

China is about to get new leaders for the first time in a decade, and it comes at a crucial moment for the world's most populous nation. Economic growth, which surged for decades, has slowed. Demands for political reform have increased and the Communist Party has been hit by scandal. In a series of stories this week, NPR is examining the multiple challenges facing China. In this story, Louisa Lim looks at China's pervasive efforts to maintain order.

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9:34am

Mon October 29, 2012
China: Change Or Crisis

China's New Leaders Inherit Country At A Crossroads

Originally published on Tue October 30, 2012 8:53 am

"The Defense of Yan'an" re-enacts a 1947 battle to protect Mao Zedong's Communist stronghold during the Chinese Civil War from the Nationalists, who fled to Taiwan.
Louisa Lim NPR

China is about to get new leaders for the first time in a decade, and it comes at a sensitive moment for the world's most populous nation. Economic growth, which surged for decades, has slowed. Demands for political reform have increased and the Communist Party has been hit by scandal. In a series of stories this week, NPR is examining the multiple challenges facing China. In our first story, Louisa Lim looks at how the Chinese view the Communist Party in the place where it took shape.

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9:31am

Mon October 29, 2012
China: Change Or Crisis

At 79, Ex-Party Official Lambastes Chinese Leaders

Once a top Communist Party figure, 79-year-old Bao Tong was kicked out after he sympathized with the student protesters in 1989.
Louisa Lim NPR

The frail 79-year-old in a pale brown shirt with close-cropped hair sitting at a fast-food restaurant table looks absolutely unremarkable. But Bao Tong has a lightness in his eyes, a confidence that speaks of a man whose conscience is clear, a man with nothing to fear.

"I have become my own person," he says. "When I was a Communist Party member, I had to follow party discipline. When they threw me out of the party, my brain was set free."

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4:37am

Sat October 20, 2012
Asia

Amid Calls For Reform, China Waits For New Leaders

Originally published on Mon October 22, 2012 2:21 pm

Guards stand outside the Xinhua Gate of the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in central Beijing earlier this year. China is preparing for a once-a-decade leadership change amid signs of growing public dissatisfaction.
David Gray Reuters/Landov

The slogan "Long Live the Great Communist Party of China" is emblazoned on the wall outside the Beijing compound where the country's leaders live and work.

But now that party is under pressure to change as it prepares for a once-in-a-decade transition of power, which starts at a party congress scheduled to begin Nov. 8.

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4:32am

Mon September 24, 2012
Asia

Signs Emerge Of Economic Change In North Korea

Originally published on Tue September 25, 2012 7:08 am

Workers plant rice at a co-op farm in Nampo, North Korea, on May 12. The North Korean leadership has given indications that it may be preparing to implement measures to liberalize the country's economy.
Kyodo/Landov

An unusual parliamentary meeting is due to open Tuesday in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, amid speculation of sweeping changes ahead. In the first such confirmation from within the country, farmers told The Associated Press they would be given more control over their crops under new agricultural rules. Long seen as an economic basket case, North Korea now could be on the cusp of economic change.

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2:52pm

Wed September 19, 2012
Asia

China Offers Glimpse Of A New Stealth Fighter

Originally published on Thu September 20, 2012 6:27 am

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has lunch with engineering cadets at the Chinese military academy in Beijing on Wednesday. Just before Panetta's arrival for talks with top leaders, China released photos of a new stealth fighter under development.
Larry Downing Getty Images

Ahead of high-profile talks in China by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, there was a high-impact leak. Photos emerged of a second Chinese stealth fighter jet — one that had been rumored but never seen before.

The J31, as analysts call it, shows how fast China is moving.

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4:11am

Tue September 18, 2012
NPR Story

U.S. Calls For Calm Over Disputed Asian Islands

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 5:18 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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9:24am

Mon September 17, 2012
The Two-Way

China Ratchets Up The Rhetoric In Island Spat With Japan

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 7:52 am

Protesters marched in front of the Japanese Embassy in Beijing today. They carried a banner declaring: "We are proud of China's rise. We resolutely oppose Japan's rightist forces."
Louisa Lim NPR

China's state-run media is warning that Japan could endure another "lost decade" of economic stagnation should Beijing resort to trade retaliation over Japan's purchase of disputed islands.

The warning comes amid a surge of anti-Japanese nationalism across China that sparked huge and sometimes violent protests over the weekend. As the economic cost of the protests begins to escalate, it's becoming clearer exactly who might be behind them.

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