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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Asia
5:01 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

Biden Arrives In Beijing As Trouble Brews Over The East China Sea

Originally published on Tue December 3, 2013 6:39 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. Vice President Joe Biden is in Tokyo today. He's there to reemphasize American support for Japan as it tangles with China over contested air space. China unnerved its neighbors late last month by declaring an air identification defense zone. The zone covers disputed islands in the East China Sea. NPR's Frank Langfitt has more from Shanghai on what's behind China's latest move.

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Parallels
2:55 pm
Fri November 29, 2013

Chinese Welcome Easing Of One-Child Policy, But Can They Afford It?

A man and child walk in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. China's government recently announced an easing of the country's one-child policy. While the move appears to be broadly supported, many urban Chinese parents say it would be hard to afford a second child.
Ed Jones AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri November 29, 2013 9:03 pm

Many Chinese are pleased with the recent announcement that their government will further loosen the country's one-child policy. Some couples there are already allowed to have two children, while others say that even if they are permitted to have another kid, they can't afford it.

A young, professional couple surnamed Gao and Deng went to a government office in Shanghai earlier this month to apply for a marriage license.

Waiting on a metal bench, Gao, the 30-year-old groom-to-be, said he was glad more couples will be able to have a second child.

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Asia
4:02 pm
Thu November 28, 2013

China's Latest Territorial Moves Renew Fears In Philippines

U.S. and Philippine navy personnel patrol the seas off a naval base west of Manila in June as part of joint exercises.
Ted Aljibe AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu November 28, 2013 9:24 pm

China is flexing its muscles these days. Over the weekend, it declared a sprawling air defense identification zone that covers disputed islands controlled by Japan. And it has sent its lone aircraft carrier for first-time trials in the South China Sea, where Beijing has territorial feuds with other neighbors, including Vietnam, Brunei and the Philippines.

None of this was making China any friends in Manila, where the Chinese government is particularly unpopular these days.

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Asia
4:52 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

China Sends 'Peace Ark' To Philippines Via Choppy Political Seas

Originally published on Wed November 20, 2013 6:57 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

China is sending a state-of-the art hospital ship to help typhoon victims in the Philippines. This comes after widespread criticism that an earlier offer of aid was stingy. China, the world's second-largest economy, initially pledged a total of just $200,000. By way of comparison, IKEA has pledged more than 10 times that amount.

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Asia
5:51 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

More Changes For China After Leadership Conference

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 8:07 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Two big announcements today from China. Its government said that it will further loosen the country's one-child policy and abolish its infamous re-education through labor camps. The news follows a special four-day meeting of the country's leaders, and to hear more about why China is doing this and what it might mean, we turn to NPR's Frank Langfitt in Shanghai. Frank, welcome to the program.

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Asia
4:52 pm
Tue November 12, 2013

Chinese Communist Party Meeting Promises Big, Yet Vague, Changes

Originally published on Tue November 12, 2013 5:56 pm

China's Communist Party wrapped up a four-day meeting Tuesday that could herald big changes for the nation's economy. The meeting carries the soporific title The Third Plenary of the 18th Central Committee. But historically, a third plenary has meant transformational reforms.

Asia
4:04 am
Mon November 11, 2013

Western Media In China: Adjusting To The 'Anaconda'

An exterior view of the Bloomberg building in New York. Bloomberg staffers say editors spiked a story that exposed financial ties between a tycoon and family members of top Chinese officials.
Eduardo Munoz Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 3:15 pm

Last weekend was a bad one for foreign reporting in China.

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Asia
4:47 am
Fri November 8, 2013

China's Challenge: How To Keep Economic Boom Alive

Office workers walk past China Dream propaganda boards, showing messages pushed by current Chinese President Xi Jinping's administration, on display near a construction site in Beijing on Oct. 8. The country's leaders are meeting this weekend to chart China's economic course.
Andy Wong AP

Originally published on Fri November 8, 2013 7:44 pm

How do you keep the world's longest economic win streak alive?

That's the question China's leaders face at a meeting that opens Saturday in Beijing. The meeting, known as the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee, is the most important of its kind in years, and for the planet's second-largest economy, a lot hangs in the balance.

In decades past, meetings like this have been game changers. Consider the one in 1978, when Deng Xiaoping officially shut the door on the chaotic Mao era.

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Parallels
10:28 am
Wed November 6, 2013

In Violent Hospitals, China's Doctors Can Become Patients

People wait in line at a counter for medical services at the Guanganmen Chinese medicine hospital in Beijing.
David Gray Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Wed November 6, 2013 8:45 pm

Several hundred doctors and nurses jammed the courtyard of the No. 1 People's Hospital in Wenling, a city with a population of about 1 million in Zhejiang province, a four-hour train ride south of Shanghai.

They wore surgical masks to hide their identities from the government and waved white signs that read, "Zero tolerance for violence."

"Doctors and nurses must be safe to take care of people's health!" video shows them chanting.

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Parallels
11:28 am
Wed October 30, 2013

Someone In Central China Really Stinks At Photoshop

In a photo originally posted to a county government website, local officials purportedly visit a 100-year-old woman in Anhui province. They sure are tall, aren't they? And what happened to the legs of the guy on the right?
Ningguo Civil Affairs Department via Chinanews.com

Originally published on Wed October 30, 2013 1:32 pm

Local Chinese government propagandists have outdone themselves in what seems to be the increasingly competitive category of bad Photoshop.

This week's entry hails from Ningguo County in central China's Anhui province. The workmanship is so bad, it seems almost, well, effortless.

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Parallels
3:12 am
Wed October 23, 2013

Desperate Chinese Villagers Turn To Self-Immolation

Relatives of He Mengqing walk in front of his house, which the local government has slated for demolition. The rice farmer from Chenzhou in China's Hunan province rejected a government offer of compensation for his land; he set himself on fire when officials came for him.
Frank Langfitt NPR

Originally published on Wed October 23, 2013 11:07 am

In order to turn China into an urban nation, local governments have demolished tens of millions of homes over the past decade. Homeowners have often fought back, blocking heavy machinery and battling officials.

In recent years, resistance has taken a disturbing turn: Since 2009, at least 53 people across China have lit themselves on fire to protest the destruction of their homes, according to human rights and news reports.

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Asia
4:31 am
Mon October 14, 2013

China Experiences Surprise Drop In Exports

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with a slide in Chinese exports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Chinese exports showed a surprise drop last month, according to government figures.

As NPR's Frank Langfitt reports, the September numbers underscore some of the challenges facing the world's second-largest economy.

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Parallels
5:45 pm
Tue October 8, 2013

Asian Allies' Anxieties Rise Amid Washington Paralysis

President Obama listens as Chinese President Xi Jinping answers a question after a bilateral meeting in California on June 7.
Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue October 8, 2013 7:24 pm

The partial shutdown of the U.S. government has all sorts of costs — not only in the United States, but also overseas. President Obama had to cancel a trip this week to visit four nations in Asia so he could stay in Washington to deal with the political crisis. That has disappointed — even worried — some of America's friends in the region, who are counting on the United States to stand up to an increasingly assertive China.

The disappointment over the president's no-show in Asia was palpable.

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Business
4:55 am
Mon October 7, 2013

Political Crisis Keeps Obama From Asia-Pacific Summit

Originally published on Mon October 7, 2013 6:20 am

Leaders of Asia-Pacific countries are wrapping up an economic summit in Indonesia. Much of the talk in the region over the weekend focused on the event's big no show: President Obama. Because of the partial government shutdown in the U.S., the president decided to stay at home and monitor developments.

Asia
3:55 am
Fri September 27, 2013

Shanghai To Open Free-Trade Zone To Boost China's Growth

Originally published on Fri September 27, 2013 6:07 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

In the NPR business zone, we'll talk about an experiment in China.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: On Sunday, Shanghai will open a free trade zone that officials say will be a laboratory for reforming the world's second-largest economy.

As NPR's Frank Langfitt reports, the new zone is getting a lot of media attention in China but the details remain sketchy.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: The formula of low-wage labor and cheap exports that transformed China from a backwater into a global economic power has run out of steam.

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Parallels
3:10 pm
Wed September 25, 2013

For Some NYU Students, A Sweet Deal To Study ... In Shanghai

The university is currently located on the leafy campus of East China Normal University. Next year, NYU Shanghai will move to a 15-story building in the city's financial district.
Frank Langfitt NPR

Originally published on Tue October 8, 2013 9:58 am

First-year college student Stephanie Ulan, from Queens, N.Y., had her sights set on New York University, in the heart of Manhattan's Greenwich Village.

She got her wish — sort of.

At first, the school offered her a generous scholarship but told her and her father they'd still have to take out big loans.

"My father is 62 years old," says Ulan, who plans to major in international relations. "There was a big scene and he flipped out and he was, like, 'I can't do that.' "

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Parallels
3:24 am
Fri September 20, 2013

Visit Paris And Venice In The Same Afternoon (In China)

Sky City, a replica of Paris, is a 40-minute drive from Hangzhou in East China's Zhejiang province. The rich people that developers hoped would move here never materialized.
Frank Langfitt NPR

Originally published on Fri September 20, 2013 2:54 pm

Want to visit Paris and Venice in the same afternoon?

You can, if you're in China.

Chinese developers have for years built residential communities that mimic famous European cities and towns. They are the subject of a new book, Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China.

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Asia
11:06 am
Wed September 18, 2013

China's Debate: Must The Party Follow The Constitution?

A police officer blocks photos from being taken outside Zhongnanhai, the central headquarters for the Communist Party of China, in Beijing last year.
Mark Ralston AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed September 18, 2013 8:01 pm

Several weeks back, officials with the East China University of Political Science and Law met one of its professors, Zhang Xuezhong, at his favorite hangout, a coffeehouse in Shanghai.

Sitting in a private room, they told him he was suspended from teaching for articles he had posted on the Internet. In them, Zhang had argued that China's government needs to build a real rule of law — one to which even the party is accountable — as well as a system of checks and balances.

One way to start, he says, is to live up to the promises made in China's 1982 constitution.

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Parallels
1:57 pm
Thu August 29, 2013

Too Weird To Be True? In China, You Never Can Tell

A zoo in central China's Henan province swapped a dog — a Tibetan mastiff like the one shown here — for a lion, in another story that recently swept Chinese cyberspace.
Ed Jones AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 9, 2013 5:47 pm

Here are some of the recent news stories that went viral in China that you may have missed:

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Asia
5:01 pm
Fri August 23, 2013

Corruption Trial Not Working Out As Communist Party Had Hoped

Originally published on Fri August 23, 2013 9:12 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

China's Communist Party had hoped a high profile corruption trial this week would send a message that the party punishes its own and operates under the rule of law. But so far, the trail of former Politburo member Bo Xilai hasn't quite worked out that way. NPR's Frank Langfitt reports on how China's biggest case in decades is toying with the expectations of the millions of people following the trial.

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