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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8:48am

Mon November 25, 2013
Parallels

After The Storm: Commerce Returns To Damaged Philippines City

Originally published on Mon November 25, 2013 1:11 pm

In the past week, this street market in Tacloban has grown exponentially as people try to earn money to rebuild their lives.
Frank Langfitt/ NPR

Commerce has returned to the storm-savaged streets of Tacloban in the past week. People sell bananas along the roads, and a bustling market has sprung up across several blocks downtown.

Jimbo Tampol, who works for a local Coca-Cola distributor, drives across Tacloban selling ice-cold sodas from coolers. In a city where there is no electricity and little refrigeration, a cold soda is a big deal, a symbol of normalcy.

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10:28am

Wed November 6, 2013
Parallels

In Violent Hospitals, China's Doctors Can Become Patients

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

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

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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11:28am

Wed October 30, 2013
Parallels

Someone In Central China Really Stinks At Photoshop

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

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

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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3:12am

Wed October 23, 2013
Parallels

Desperate Chinese Villagers Turn To Self-Immolation

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

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

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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4:31am

Mon October 14, 2013
Asia

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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4:40pm

Tue October 8, 2013
Parallels

Asian Allies' Anxieties Rise Amid Washington Paralysis

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

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

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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3:41pm

Wed September 25, 2013
Parallels

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

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

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

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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3:44am

Fri September 20, 2013
Parallels

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

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

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

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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11:06am

Wed September 18, 2013
Asia

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

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

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

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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1:57pm

Thu August 29, 2013
Parallels

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

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

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

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

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5:01pm

Fri August 23, 2013
Asia

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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1:56pm

Thu August 22, 2013
The Two-Way

Bo Xilai's Corruption Trial In China Kicks Off With A Twist

Originally published on Thu August 22, 2013 7:07 pm

In this photo released by the Jinan Intermediate People's Court, Bo Xilai appears Thursday on the first day of his trial in eastern China's Shandong province. Interestingly, he was photographed flanked by two very tall policemen.
AP

In China, recent Communist Party show trials have featured cowed defendants acknowledging their crimes and offering apologies. Not this one.

The country's biggest trial in decades kicked off Thursday with the defendant, former politburo member Bo Xilai, denying guilt, claiming his confession was coerced and branding the testimony of one of his accusers — in this case his wife — "laughable."

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2:55am

Thu August 22, 2013
Parallels

China's College Grads Face A New Reality: Fewer Jobs

Originally published on Thu August 22, 2013 7:03 pm

Thousands descended on a job fair in Shanghai earlier this year. This summer nearly 7 million people graduated from Chinese colleges, but jobs are harder to find than in previous years.
Frank Langfitt/NPR

It's been about two months since college graduation, and more than 3 million graduates from this year and last still don't have jobs, according to government officials.

That's not in the U.S., but in China.

China is home to the world's fastest-growing major economy. But with nearly 7 million college graduates this year, a record number, finding work is tough and a worry for the ruling Communist Party.

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1:59pm

Wed August 7, 2013
Parallels

'It's Too Hot': Shanghai Wilts In Record-Setting Heat Wave

Originally published on Wed August 7, 2013 6:41 pm

People cool off Wednesday in a pool in Shanghai, where temperatures reached an all-time record: 105.4 degrees.
Frank Langfitt NPR

Temperatures Wednesday in Shanghai hit an all-time high: 105.4 degrees, according to officials here. It was the hottest day in 140 years, since the government began keeping records.

The Chinese megacity is in the midst of its hottest summer ever.

Usually bustling streets are near empty at noon and thousands have gone to hospitals for relief. To get a feel for how people are handling the heat wave, I waded into a public pool in the city's Hankou district. By early afternoon, the temperature was 98 degrees in the shade, according to the thermometer I brought along.

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5:42pm

Fri July 5, 2013
Parallels

Gatsby-Like Extravagance And Wealth ... In Communist China

Originally published on Tue July 9, 2013 12:37 pm

A waiter delivers glasses of wine to guests at a luxury hotel bar near the Bund in Shanghai, on Sept. 8, 2012.
Aly Song Reuters /Landov

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