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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Asia
12:01 am
Tue February 21, 2012

Protests, Self-Immolation Signs Of A Desperate Tibet

freetibet.org, shows a man being forcibly detained by security forces in the town of Serther in Tibet following a clash with protesters and police." href="/post/protests-self-immolation-signs-desperate-tibet" class="noexit lightbox">
This photo, provided to freetibet.org, shows a man being forcibly detained by security forces in the town of Serther in Tibet following a clash with protesters and police.
freetibet.org

Originally published on Tue February 21, 2012 8:44 pm

In a monastery on the Tibetan plateau, monks swathed in crimson robes chant under silk hangings, in a murky hall heavy with the smell of yak butter. Photos of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama — seen by China as a splittist — are openly displayed, as if in defiance. But Chinese security forces have tightened their grasp on this region, and monasteries appear to be emptying out, gripped by an atmosphere of fear and loss.

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Asia
3:00 am
Wed February 15, 2012

For China's Likely Premier, A Western Influence

Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang, shown here delivering a speech at a Canada-China business forum in Beijing, on Feb. 9, 2012, is expected to become the country's next premier. In contrast to most other Chinese leaders, Li speaks English and has had considerable exposure to Western ideas.
Diego Azubel AP

Originally published on Wed February 15, 2012 1:31 pm

Third of three parts

The man who's expected to become China's president next year, Xi Jinping, is considered a princeling, the son of a prominent Chinese political figure. But the man who's likely to become premier, Li Keqiang, comes from very different stock.

The son of a minor party official, Li worked as a farmer for four years, before studying law at university.

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Asia
12:01 am
Tue February 14, 2012

A Pragmatic Princeling Next In Line To Lead China

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, shown here in December 2011 waving to students during a visit to Bangkok, Thailand, is in line to become China's leader next year.
Pairoj AFP/Getty Images

Second of three parts

In northwestern China's Shaanxi province, a neatly manicured and landscaped memorial park the size of six soccer fields is one sign of the revolutionary lineage of Xi Jinping, the man set to become China's next leader.

Known as a Communist Party princeling, Xi is the 58-year-old son of Xi Zhongxun, a deputy prime minister and revolutionary hero who died in 2002.

The elder Xi was born in Fuping county in Shaanxi, more than 600 miles southwest of Beijing, and is considered a hometown hero.

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Asia
12:01 am
Mon February 13, 2012

Hopes, Fears Surround China's Transition Of Power

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (right) and Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang (center) chat with Li Changchun of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee after the party's 90th anniversary celebration in Beijing in July. Xi and Li Keqiang, members of a new generation of Chinese leaders, are expected to nab the top spots in an upcoming transition of power.
Feng Li Getty Images

Originally published on Wed February 22, 2012 7:27 pm

First of three parts

China's leader-in-waiting, Xi Jinping, is due to arrive in the U.S. shortly, providing the first glimpse of the next generation to lead the world's second-largest economy. This once-in-a-decade transition of power, which begins this fall, is rife with unpredictability, particularly as an unfolding political scandal grips China.

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Asia
5:05 pm
Wed February 8, 2012

Home Of Noted Beijing Architect Reduced To Rubble

Liang Sicheng, known as the father of modern Chinese architecture, lobbied Mao Zedong to preserve ancient buildings in Beijing. Despite efforts to have his former courtyard home in Beijing preserved as a cultural relic, it was recently demolished.
Louisa Lim NPR

Originally published on Wed February 8, 2012 7:09 pm

Down a quiet Beijing alleyway on a recent day, as the winter wind whistles, two men stand guard over a pile of bricks hidden behind a corrugated iron fence.

The pile of rubble was once the home of the man known as the father of modern Chinese architecture, Liang Sicheng. The Orwellian reason for its demolition? "For maintenance," according to a Xinhua news agency report, citing the developer, Fuheng Real Estate company.

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Asia
2:43 pm
Tue January 24, 2012

For China's 'Left-Behind Kids,' A Free Lunch

Students enjoy free meals on the inaugural day of the Free Lunch for Children program at Hujiaying primary school in Shaanxi province's Nanzheng county.
Louisa Lim NPR

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:06 am

For 10-year-old student Xie Xiaoyuan, just getting to school is an ordeal. On a recent day, her frostbitten ears are testament to just how difficult the trip is.

"I get up at five o'clock," she says, "then I comb my hair and start walking."

Xie navigates a mountain path in China's remote Shaanxi province in the dark, trudging through snowstorms and mudslides. Then she has to get a bus for about 10 miles. She hasn't time to eat breakfast.

"For lunch, I spend 15 cents on two pieces of bread and a drink," she says.

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Asia
12:01 am
Wed January 11, 2012

China Targets Entertainment TV In Cultural Purge

TV show Super Girl Voice, a singing contest show, is recorded at Hunan Satellite TV station in 2006 in Changsha city, Hunan province of China. The show was recently banned as part of a recent entertainment industry crackdown.
Guang Niu Getty Images

Tens of millions of people tune in every week to the Chinese dating show Take Me Out. It's pure entertainment: girls in skimpy dresses hoping for a date; sweaty, geeky guys stammering questions; and two effete hosts sporting matching bouffant hairstyles.

But as of last week, the show was bumped from prime time — part of China's latest clampdown against "excessive entertainment," which is itself a manifestation of a larger ideological campaign.

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Asia
4:29 am
Fri December 23, 2011

With N. Korea In Flux, Neighbors Reassess Policies

South Korean soldiers face a North Korean soldier standing at the border village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea on Thursday. North Korea's neighbors are reassessing their policies following the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
Wally Santana AP

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 10:23 am

The boundary between North Korea and South Korea has been called the world's most dangerous border. But on Thursday, the most dangerous thing about it appeared to be the biting cold and bone-chilling wind, with one Korean soldier jokingly describing the temperature as "hell."

At the Joint Security Area where the actual demarcation line is, half a dozen South Korean soldiers stood at the alert, facing off against one solitary North Korean soldier in khaki. The only unusual sign was the North Korean flag flying at half-staff.

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North Korea In Transition
1:27 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

With Kim's Death, Defectors See Chance For Change

Park Sang-nak, a North Korean defector, displays anti-North Korea leaflets before sending them by balloon into North Korea, at Imjinggak peace park in South Korea near the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas on Wednesday. Defectors from the North are hoping the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il may provide an opportunity for political change.
Yang Hoi-Sung AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 21, 2011 9:09 pm

While North Korean mourners trudged through snow in Pyongyang to pay last respects to their "Dear Leader," defectors from the North now in South Korea are celebrating the sudden death of Kim Jong Il, who died from a heart attack this past weekend.

And as the outside world tries to figure out how much control his son and heir apparent, Kim Jong Un, has over the nuclear-armed state, the defectors are focusing on trying to kickstart a revolution in North Korea.

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Asia
5:05 pm
Tue December 20, 2011

After Kim's Death, No Signs Of Power Struggles

The body of Kim Jong Il, the deceased leader of North Korea, now lies in state in the capital, Pyongyang. His sudden death has raised concerns about possible power struggles. But so far, all outward signs suggest that the North Korean leadership is lining up behind his son, Kim Jong Un.

Asia
3:39 pm
Fri December 16, 2011

Chinese Property Dispute Becomes A Bitter Showdown

Family members burn funeral offerings for Xue Jinbo on Friday. Xue, 42, was involved in a property dispute that turned into a major confrontation with authorities in the southern Chinese village of Wukan. He died in police custody.
Louisa Lim NPR

Originally published on Sat December 17, 2011 12:10 am

What began as a property dispute in the southern Chinese village of Wukan has escalated into an open revolt for the past six days. It's one of the most serious episodes of unrest that the Chinese Communist Party has faced in recent years. The protests were suspended for a while Friday so villagers could mourn the man whose death led villagers to chase police and government officials out of town. The police have sealed off the area, but NPR's Louisa Lim managed to get into Wukan.

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Asia
12:01 am
Wed December 14, 2011

And You Thought The Tiger Mother Was Tough

Wolf Dad XiaoBaiyou at home, where he drew up more than a thousand rules for his kids. Any transgression earned the kids a beating with a feather duster, either on the legs or on the palm of the hand.
Louisa Lim NPR

Tiger Mother Amy Chua, the super-strict Chinese-American disciplinarian, became an overnight sensation in the U.S. this year when she wrote about her tough parenting style. But she looks like a pussy cat next to her mainland Chinese equivalent, "Wolf Dad" Xiao Baiyou.

Xiao is the latest media sensation in China — a father who not just beat his son and three daughters, but boasts about how he did it.

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Asia
5:04 am
Wed December 7, 2011

Clean Air A 'Luxury' In Beijing's Pollution Zone

Chinese walk to work midday as heavy smog hangs over downtown Beijing.
Stephen Shaver UPI /Landov

Originally published on Wed December 7, 2011 8:37 pm

On the way to school, my kids and I play a guessing game: How polluted is the air today? We use an app linked to the air pollution monitor at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, and we try to guess the day's exact level on the Air Quality Index, and whether the air is dangerous.

These days, chances are that it could well be. For more than half of the past 60 days, the air pollution has hit levels hazardous to human health. Experts estimate long-term exposure to such pollution could reduce life expectancy by as much as five years. But I don't tell the kids that.

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Asia
2:52 pm
Thu December 1, 2011

In South Korea, Old Law Leads To New Crackdown

Park Jong-kun's Twitter profile picture — which shows him against a backdrop of the North Korean flag — may violate South Korea's strict National Security Law. The 24-year-old South Korean is also under investigation for retweeting North Korean propaganda.
Courtesy Park Jong-kun

Originally published on Thu December 1, 2011 8:24 pm

Park Jong-kun's Twitter profile picture shows him inspecting a bottle of Johnnie Walker whisky against a backdrop of the North Korean flag.

The 24-year-old South Korean photographer thought it would be funny, a visual parody of North Korea's news programs. But it turns out this profile picture could violate South Korea's strict six-decade-old National Security Law, which punishes those who "praise, disseminate or cooperate with anti-state groups" if such acts endanger democracy and national security.

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Asia
5:10 pm
Tue November 15, 2011

From Crushing Poverty To South Korea's Presidency

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak (shown here as a young accountant, working for Hyundai's office in Thailand in the early 1960s) overcame a poverty-stricken childhood to become a student activist, successful business executive and, ultimately, leader of his country.
Courtesy of Lee Myung-bak

Originally published on Wed December 28, 2011 4:29 pm

When Lee Myung-bak was inaugurated as the 10th president of South Korea in February 2008, it was an astonishing outcome for a poor boy from Pohang, whose No. 1 dream had been simply to get a job.

Lee's life journey is a literal rags-to-riches story. He has made a political journey, too, from a student radical imprisoned for his activism to a conservative head of state.

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Asia
12:01 am
Tue November 15, 2011

South Korean President Faces Mounting Pressures

South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak waves as he arrives for a working dinner at the G20 summit in Cannes, southern France, Nov. 3. At home, Lee faces mounting criticism over the free trade deal with the U.S. as well as North Korea policy and the economy.
Michel Euler AP

Originally published on Wed November 16, 2011 8:39 am

A free trade agreement with the U.S. more than four years in the making is causing a big political headache for South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

On Tuesday, he was scheduled to visit lawmakers in Parliament to try to persuade them to ratify the deal, a step he has never taken before over a single specific issue. Lee is also under pressure in the polls, and facing criticism over his North Korea policy.

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Asia
4:00 am
Tue November 8, 2011

South Korean Opposition Delays Free Trade Vote

In South Korea, opposition politicians have delayed the ratification of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States. The U.S. Congress has ratified the pact. But in South Korea, thousands of opponents have been holding angry street rallies, and a rising mood of anti-American sentiment is helping their cause.

Asia
3:44 am
Sun November 6, 2011

'Cake Theory' Has Chinese Eating Up Political Debate

Chinese children celebrate the Communist Party in Chongqing municipality in March. Bo Xilai, the region's party secretary who is vying for a place in the Politburo Standing Committee, espouses a government-intervention model to economics.
STR AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun November 6, 2011 6:58 pm

What goes on inside China's leadership is usually played out behind the closed oxblood doors of the compound where the top leaders live. This year, though, a political debate has sprung out in the open — and it has leaders and constituents considering how to move forward politically.

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Asia
5:31 am
Fri October 28, 2011

Chinese Activists Turn To Twitter In Rights Cases

Blind activist Chen Guangcheng with his wife and son outside their home in northeast China's Shandong province in 2005. He's been held incommunicado at his home for more than a year and has become the focus of a microblog campaign by human-rights activists.

STR AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri October 28, 2011 9:21 pm

In China, microblogs are transforming the way activists draw attention to human-rights cases. Despite strict Internet controls, netizens are using Chinese Twitter as a powerful tool.

Two recent cases show just how effective microblogs can be in shaping the debate over human-rights abuses and driving citizen activism.

One case involves a chilling video that was recently released online. In it, a man lies under a green quilt, apparently naked. His left eye and right ear are covered with bandages; the skin on his feet is discolored and peeling.

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Asia
11:18 am
Wed October 19, 2011

At 105, Chinese Linguist Now A Government Critic

Zhou Youguang, founder of the Pinyin system of romanizing the Chinese language, has published 10 books since turning 100, some reflecting his critical views of the Chinese government. Shown here in his book-lined study, the outspoken Zhou has witnessed a century of change in China.

Louisa Lim NPR

Originally published on Wed October 19, 2011 11:59 pm

Zhou Youguang should be a Chinese hero after making what some call the world's most important linguistic innovation: He invented Pinyin, a system of romanizing Chinese characters using the Western alphabet.

But instead, this 105-year-old has become a thorn in the government's side. Zhou has published an amazing 10 books since he turned 100, some of which have been banned in China. These, along with outspoken views on the Communist Party and the need for democracy in China, have made him a "sensitive person" — a euphemism for a political dissident.

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Asia
12:01 am
Mon October 10, 2011

In China's Red-Hot Art Market, Fraud Abounds

These two paintings were up for auction in Hong Kong in February. Art auctions produce eye-popping sales figures in China, though critics say there is a widespread problem with fakes.

Vincent Yu AP

Originally published on Mon October 10, 2011 12:22 pm

As the global economy teeters, one market is still reaching stratospheric highs: Chinese art.

A Hong Kong auction of fine Chinese paintings earlier this month raised $94.8 million, three times pre-sale estimates. In fact, China is now the world's biggest art market, according to the art information agency Artprice.

Yet all is not what it seems in the murky world of Chinese art auctions, including a painting that sold last year for more than $11 million, but appears not to be what was advertised.

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Asia
1:40 pm
Mon September 26, 2011

From Progress To Problem: China's High-Speed Trains

Workers clear the wreckage of a July 23 high-speed-train collision in Wenzhou in eastern China's Zhejiang province. The crash killed 40 people and raised questions about the safety of the country's high-speed-rail network, which the Chinese government has held up as an example of its technological prowess and with which it had hoped to attract overseas buyers.
STR AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon September 26, 2011 8:17 pm

China's high-speed trains were supposed to be a gleaming testament to the country's progress and modernity. Instead, a recent crash that killed 40 people has come to symbolize much that's wrong with China's warp-speed development. In particular, a "Great Leap Forward" mentality toward development is clashing with questions of safety.

The notion that fatal accidents are the price of progress seems to have trickled down to some of the passengers on a recent high-speed train journey between Beijing and Nanjing, many of whom characterized the accident as "normal."

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Asia
3:29 pm
Wed September 21, 2011

The Curious Case Of The Vanishing Chinese City

Chinese officials announced on Aug. 22 that the large city of Chaohu in eastern China no longer existed. The move caught residents by surprise. Chaohu's museum, shown here, houses a Han dynasty tomb, and the city is known for its huge freshwater lake.
Louisa Lim NPR

Originally published on Wed September 21, 2011 8:20 pm

Imagine a city like Los Angeles disappearing from the map completely. That's exactly what happened to Chaohu, a city in eastern China's Anhui province with a similar population — about 4 million. The people have remained, but the city has vanished in an administrative sleight of hand.

That was the Kafkaesque reality for Chaohu's inhabitants, who went to bed one night and woke up the morning of Aug. 22 to find out that their city no longer existed. For many, their first inkling that something had changed was from the local news.

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