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
4:33 pm
Thu March 7, 2013

Young Chinese Translate America, One Show At A Time

The Newsroom, starring Jeff Daniels, is one of the most popular American TV series in China. It's a favorite among a cadre of young, informal translators who see it as a way to challenge conventional Chinese thinking.

Originally published on Thu March 7, 2013 9:42 pm

Every week, thousands of young Chinese gather online to translate popular American movies and TV shows into Mandarin. Some do it for fun and to help people learn English, while others see it as a subtle way to introduce new ideas into Chinese society.

Among the more popular American TV shows on China's Internet these days is HBO's The Newsroom. One reason is an exchange between a college student and a news anchor played by Jeff Daniels. The young woman asks the aging newsman why the United States is the greatest country in the world.

The anchor explodes.

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The Two-Way
11:36 am
Wed March 6, 2013

How To Sneak Into A Chinese Village When Police Don't Want You There

When residents of the southern Chinese village of Shangpu staged an uprising, police set up a roadblock on the main road to keep outsiders away, including reporters. Here, a policeman mans the roadblock on Saturday.
Peter Parks AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 6, 2013 12:41 pm

On occasion my job requires me to sneak into a Chinese village as I did earlier this week to report a story on a rural uprising. This does not come naturally. I'm 6-foot-2 with gray hair and blue eyes and don't look remotely like a Chinese farmer.

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Asia
5:18 am
Tue March 5, 2013

Chinese Farmers Fight Against Government Land Grab

Smashed and overturned cars are shown Saturday after civil unrest in the village of Shangpu in China's southern Guangdong province.
Peter Parks AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue March 5, 2013 9:22 pm

The road that runs along the edge of Shangpu village in south China is littered with the hulks of burned-out cars. Farmers have built tents and simple barricades made of rocks and wire. Police have set up their own cordon in a standoff that is approaching two weeks.

The villagers are demanding free elections following yet another government land grab. They say armed thugs sent by their own village chief attacked the community to pave the way for a new factory on their farmland.

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The Two-Way
5:04 am
Sun February 24, 2013

In China, Not Everything Has Changed

Shen Lixiu, 58, says she had her front teeth kicked out in a re-education through labor camp. Chinese authorities say they are considering "reforms" to a system that is coming under increasing public criticism.
Frank Langfitt NPR

A lot of journalism about China focuses on the country's rapid and stunning changes, but equally telling are the things that stay the same. I did my first story on China's re-education through labor camps back in 2001.

I met a former inmate named Liu Xiaobo for lunch in Beijing. Liu, soft-spoken and thoughtful, had written an article mourning those who had died in the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. He had also called for democracy.

So, one day, police took him from his house and charged him with "slandering the Communist Party" and "disrupting social order."

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Asia
3:20 am
Fri February 22, 2013

Ex-Inmates Speak Out About Labor Camps As China Considers 'Reforms'

Some former prisoners of re-education through labor camps and their supporters hold signs in Beijing declaring, "No Re-education Through Labor." Popular opposition to the camps has grown as China's state-run media has highlighted particularly egregious cases.
Frank Langfitt NPR

Originally published on Fri February 22, 2013 9:59 pm

Shen Lixiu's story is numbingly familiar.

Officials in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing knocked down her karaoke parlor for development. She says they then offered her compensation that was less than 20 percent of what she had invested in the place.

Shen complained to the central government. Local authorities responded by sentencing her to a "re-education through labor" camp for a year. Once inside, Shen says, camp workers tried to force her to accept the compensation.

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The Two-Way
1:50 pm
Tue February 19, 2013

A Chinese Army Outpost That's Tucked Into Modern Shanghai

This 12-story building houses a Chinese military unit allegedly behind dozens of cyberattacks on U.S. and other Western companies. It's in a modern, if bland, part of Shanghai.
Peter Parks AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 2:44 pm

Some people in Shanghai — especially the foreigners — think the city's new Pudong section of town is dull, without character and profoundly unfashionable.

Twenty years ago, Pudong was mostly farms and warehouses. Today, it's home to those sleek glass-and-steel skyscrapers that have come to define the city's skyline in movies like Skyfall and Mission: Impossible III.

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NPR Story
5:41 am
Tue February 19, 2013

Report Links Cyber Attacks On U.S. To China's Military

The building housing Unit 61398 of the People's Liberation Army is on the outskirts of Shanghai. A U.S. security firm claims that cyberattacks against more than 140 targets in the U.S. and other countries have been traced to the Chinese military unit in the building.
AP

Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 8:17 pm

Cyberattacks on dozens of American companies have been traced to an area on the outskirts of Shanghai that houses a Chinese military unit, according to a report out Tuesday by Mandiant, a U.S. cybersecurity company.

The 60-page document, first reported by The New York Times, says the group behind the attacks — nicknamed "Comment Crew" — is the most prolific the company has ever tracked and has been hacking U.S. companies since at least 2006.

Mandiant says the hackers' real identity is Unit 61398 of China's People's Liberation Army, or PLA.

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Asia
5:28 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

China, North Korea's Closest Ally, Joins In Condemnation Of Nuclear Test

Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 1:19 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. The U.N. Security Council is strongly condemning North Korea's third nuclear test and starting discussions on further measures. China joined in that condemnation, but China is North Korea's indispensible ally and it's an open question whether it will support tougher action. NPR's Frank Langfitt sent this story from Shanghai on China's North Korea problem.

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Asia
3:33 am
Mon February 11, 2013

Auntie Anne's Pretzels In Beijing: Why The Chinese Didn't Bite

The China Twist by Wen-Szu Lin chronicles the author's (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to bring Auntie Anne's pretzels to China.
Courtesy

Originally published on Mon February 11, 2013 11:41 am

The lure of the China market is legendary. The dream: Sell something to 1.3 billion people, and you're set.

The reality is totally different.

Ask the MBAs from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School who tried to launch Auntie Anne's pretzels in China. The result is a funny, instructive and occasionally harrowing journey that is now the subject of a new book, The China Twist.

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Asia
4:45 pm
Thu February 7, 2013

Move Over James Bond, China Has An Unlikely Box Office Champ

The surprise hit Lost in Thailand, a road comedy that cost less than $5 million to make, has become China's highest-grossing domestic film.
Enlight Pictures

Originally published on Fri February 8, 2013 9:32 am

Movies are big business in China, and 2012 was another record year: Theaters raked in about $2.7 billion, pushing China past Japan to become the world's second-largest market.

Those blistering sales were expected; China's ultimate box-office champ, however, was not.

Hollywood blockbusters usually do well in China. And last year, competition was stiff, including a new installment of Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible franchise, as well as Skyfall, the latest James Bond flick.

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Asia
5:27 am
Wed February 6, 2013

East China Sea Tension

Originally published on Wed February 6, 2013 10:51 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. It's still hard to believe that Japan and China could ever go to war over a few specks of land in the East China Sea, but here's a reminder of how easily war could come. Japan has disclosed that one of its navy ships was recently targeted by the radar off a Chinese navy ship. That form of radar is used for targeting weapons.

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Asia
3:02 am
Wed January 30, 2013

In China, The Government Isn't The Only Spy Game In Town

A man sells surveillance cameras at the main electronics market in Tienhe district, Guangzhou, in southern China's Guangdong province, on Aug. 8.
EPA /Landov

Originally published on Wed January 30, 2013 10:44 am

The final of two reports

It all started with a local Chinese official.

He couldn't figure out how his wife, who suspected him of having an affair, knew the contents of his private conversations.

"His wife knew things that he said in his car and office, including conversations over the telephone," recalls Qi Hong, a former journalist from Shandong province in eastern China, and a friend of the official.

So Qi asked a buddy who owned bug-detecting equipment to help.

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Asia
3:30 am
Tue January 29, 2013

In China, Beware: A Camera May Be Watching You

The use of security cameras such as these, looking out over Tiananmen Square in Beijing, is on the rise in China. Critics say the government is using them to discourage dissidents.
Ed Jones AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 29, 2013 8:16 pm

The first of two reports

China is becoming a surveillance state. In recent years, the government has installed more than 20 million cameras across a country where a decade ago there weren't many.

Today, in Chinese cities, cameras are everywhere: on highways, in public parks, on balconies, in elevators, in taxis, even in the stands at sporting events.

Officials say the cameras help combat crime and maintain "social stability" — a euphemism for shutting up critics.

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NPR Story
5:39 am
Thu January 10, 2013

China Investigates Foxconn For Bribery Allegations

Originally published on Thu January 10, 2013 3:04 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And there's more trouble for Foxconn, the electronics giant which makes Apple products in China. The company is acknowledging that Chinese police are looking into allegations that Foxconn employees took bribes from parts suppliers.

NPR's Frank Langfitt reports from Shanghai.

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Asia
8:11 am
Mon October 22, 2012

America's Asian Allies Question Its Staying Power

Originally published on Mon October 22, 2012 8:16 pm

In Monday's presidential debate on foreign policy, President Obama and Mitt Romney will spar over China, covering everything from free trade to cyberattacks. But another topic — one that might not come up — is of growing concern: tensions in the waters off China itself.

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It's All Politics
1:56 pm
Thu October 18, 2012

A Watch Party In China For The U.S. Presidential Debate

The Shanghai skyline
Feng Li Getty Images

Originally published on Thu October 18, 2012 2:21 pm

Gathering voters to watch a presidential debate and then evaluate it is a long tradition in American journalism. So, I got to thinking: What would happen if I invited a bunch of interested foreigners — all of them Chinese citizens — to watch the presidential debate from my Shanghai office?

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Asia
4:37 am
Thu October 18, 2012

Shanghai Twitter Fans Weigh In On U.S. Election

Originally published on Thu October 18, 2012 12:11 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

America's presidential debates have long inspired debate parties and media coverage that brings together American voters to offer their impressions. This week, we've expanded that concept all the way to China. NPR invited eight people to watch the debate at our bureau in Shanghai and then asked them for their opinions. Perhaps not surprisingly, the candidates' on China generated some interesting reactions.

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Asia
3:21 am
Tue September 25, 2012

Americans In China Feel Pinch Of Shifting Economies

China has welcomed U.S. business expertise for many years as its economy has advanced rapidly. Jim Rogers, a prominent U.S. investor, is shown here in China at the 2nd Hunan Finance Expo in 2011. However, the Chinese are becoming more confident in their own business skills and more critical of American practices in recent years, according to U.S. business executives working in China.
ChinaFotoPress Getty Images

Originally published on Tue September 25, 2012 12:00 pm

In recent years, China's status — like its economy — has continued to rise as the economies in America and Europe have struggled.

That shift isn't just reflected in economic numbers, and some American business people in China say they don't feel as respected or as valued as before.

Not long after Michael Fagle arrived in Shanghai in 2005 with DuPont, he went to visit a Chinese customer. Back then, Fagle says, he was treated as a sage from the West.

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NPR Story
6:11 am
Tue September 18, 2012

In China, Ex-Police Chief Waits For Trial Verdict

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 7:42 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The trial of the former police chief who ignited the worst political scandal in China in decades wrapped up today. Wang Lijun is accused of trying to defect to the U.S. and covering up a murder involving the wife of a one-time powerful Communist Party official. NPR's Frank Langfitt has been following the trial from Shanghai.

And first, Frank, remind us what this case is all about.

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Africa
6:20 am
Sun September 16, 2012

Rwanda's Economy: An Unlikely Success Story

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame at the International Fund for Agricultural Development headquarters in Rome in February. Changes in agriculture have been part of the country's economic growth.
Tiziana Fabi AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 9:52 am

East Africa is a tough place to do business. Want to open shop in Kenya? Prepare for a month of paper work, surly officials and bribes. To the west, in Rwanda, it's a different story.

"Registering a business takes just a matter of hours. It no longer takes months, weeks, as it used to be," says Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

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