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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Mongolia Booms
3:21 am
Wed May 23, 2012

Mongolians Scramble For A Share Of Mining Wealth

Tseren-ochir is a superintendent at Oyu Tolgoi mine who goes by the name "Augie" because it's easier for the foreigners he works with to pronounce. He is overseeing workers digging a nearly 5,000-foot-deep shaft down to reach the copper ore.
John W. Poole NPR

Originally published on Wed May 30, 2012 5:18 pm

Mongolia, the land of Genghis Khan and nomadic herders, is in the midst of a remarkable transition. Rich in coal, gold and copper, this country of fewer than 3 million people in Central Asia is riding a mineral boom that is expected to more than double its GDP within a decade. The rapid changes simultaneously excite and unnerve many Mongolians, who hope mining can help pull many out of poverty, but worry it will ravage the environment and further erode the nation's distinctive, nomadic identity.

Third of four parts

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Asia
3:21 am
Tue May 22, 2012

Mongolia's Dilemma: Who Gets The Water?

Amin-Erdene Galkhuu pumps well water to her family's Bactrian camels in Mongolia's South Gobi region. Herders and mining firms both need water in this arid area.
John Poole NPR

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 10:47 am

Mongolia, the land of Genghis Khan and nomadic herders, is in the midst of a remarkable transition. Rich in coal, gold and copper, this country of fewer than 3 million people in Central Asia is riding a mineral boom that is expected to more than double its GDP within a decade. The rapid changes simultaneously excite and unnerve many Mongolians, who hope mining can help pull many out of poverty, but worry it will ravage the environment and further erode the nation's distinctive, nomadic identity.

Second of four parts

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Asia
2:59 am
Mon May 21, 2012

Mineral-Rich Mongolia Rapidly Becoming 'Minegolia'

The mine at Oyu Tolgoi, Turquoise Hill in Mongolian, will be one of the world's largest copper mines in about five years. An employee holds up a small sample of the oxidized copper that gave the mine its name.
John W. Poole NPR

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 10:47 am

Mongolia, the land of Genghis Khan and nomadic herders, is in the midst of a remarkable transition. Rich in coal, gold and copper, this country of fewer than 3 million people in Central Asia is riding a mineral boom that is expected to more than double its GDP within a decade. The rapid changes simultaneously excite and unnerve many Mongolians, who hope mining can help pull many out of poverty, but worry it will ravage the environment and further erode the nation's distinctive, nomadic identity.

First of four parts

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Asia
4:37 am
Tue May 1, 2012

China Suppresses Coverage Of Two News Stories

Originally published on Tue May 1, 2012 10:05 am

Two stories out of China — the escape of a blind dissident from house arrest and the corruption scandal involving a top politician and his family — have attracted international attention. But inside China, the picture is different. The government has successfully suppressed the story about the dissident, Chen Guangcheng, such that most Chinese have never even heard of him. The Communist Party has waged a smear campaign against the fallen official, Bo Xilai, whom citizens see as a loser in a power struggle, a corrupt politician or both.

Asia
3:01 am
Wed April 25, 2012

Carmakers In China Rev Up As Industry Shifts East

China is now the world's largest market for cars, and the Auto China 2012 car show is now taking place in Beijing. Here, the Denza electric car, a joint creation by Daimler and Chinese manufacturer BYD, is unveiled Monday.
AP

Originally published on Wed April 25, 2012 6:24 pm

The Beijing auto show runs this week in what is now the world's largest car market, and a crucial one for Detroit companies.

General Motors just announced it will open 600 more dealerships in China, where it sells more cars than it does in the U.S. Last week, Ford announced construction of its fourth Chinese assembly plant.

For longtime American auto executives in China, witnessing the shift in the global auto industry is dramatic.

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Business
5:11 am
Tue April 24, 2012

GM To Add 600 Chinese Dealerships

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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Asia
2:51 pm
Thu March 29, 2012

Headed For The Butcher, Chinese Dogs Are Rescued

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

Originally published on Sat March 31, 2012 8:06 pm

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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Asia
3:43 pm
Thu March 15, 2012

Provocative Chinese Cartoonists Find An Outlet Online

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

Originally published on Sat March 17, 2012 6:40 am

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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Asia
12:01 am
Mon March 12, 2012

iPad Workers: Plant Inspected Hours Before Blast

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

Originally published on Mon March 12, 2012 1:06 pm

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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Asia
3:36 am
Fri March 2, 2012

Looking For Elephant Ivory? Try China

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

Originally published on Fri March 2, 2012 8:53 am

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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Asia
2:43 pm
Wed February 15, 2012

American-Born 'Linderella' Is The Pride Of China

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

Originally published on Wed February 15, 2012 7:55 pm

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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Asia
12:01 am
Thu February 9, 2012

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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Asia
4:00 am
Thu January 26, 2012

Chinese Security Forces Move Against Tibetan Protesters

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

Originally published on Thu January 26, 2012 12:37 pm

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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Asia
12:01 am
Fri January 20, 2012

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

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

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

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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Asia
12:01 am
Tue January 17, 2012

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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Asia
4:00 pm
Wed January 4, 2012

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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Asia
3:17 am
Mon January 2, 2012

Desire For Stability Keeps China, N. Korea Allies

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

Originally published on Mon January 2, 2012 5:50 pm

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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Asia
4:00 am
Tue December 13, 2011

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.

Asia
12:01 am
Mon December 12, 2011

Despite Growth, China Too Faces Debt Problems

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

Originally published on Mon December 12, 2011 8:32 pm

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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Asia
4:00 am
Fri November 25, 2011

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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Asia
12:01 am
Wed November 23, 2011

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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Asia
3:51 pm
Wed November 9, 2011

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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Economy
4:00 am
Thu November 3, 2011

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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Asia
3:56 am
Wed November 2, 2011

At IKEA In Shanghai, Do-It-Yourself Matchmaking

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

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

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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7 Billion And Counting
4:39 am
Mon October 31, 2011

Nations Grow Populations, And Face New Problems

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

Frank Langfitt NPR

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

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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