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.

Pages

3:35am

Thu May 21, 2015
Asia

Why A Chinese Government Think Tank Attacked American Scholars

Originally published on Fri May 22, 2015 6:23 am

The Dzungar army surrenders to Manchu officers of the Qing Dynasty in 1759 in the Ili Valley, now part of China's Xinjiang region, in this painting made several years later by Chinese and Jesuit missionary artists.
Wikimedia Commons

Last month, a Chinese government think tank bashed history professors from Harvard, Georgetown and other leading American universities regarding things they wrote — at least 15 years ago — about events that occurred more than two centuries ago.

"This was a uniquely vitriolic attack," says Georgetown's Jim Millward. The article calls him as "arrogant," "overbearing" and an "imperialist," and dismisses Millward's and his colleagues' scholarship as "academically absurd."

Read more

6:06am

Mon May 18, 2015
Asia

How China's Censors Influence Hollywood

Originally published on Mon May 18, 2015 7:58 pm

Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall. Chinese censors cut a scene from the movie that they thought made China look weak. Because China is such a huge market, some U.S. moviemakers may choose to avoid portraying China in negative terms.
Danjaq/Eon Productions The Kobal Collection

7:53pm

Tue May 12, 2015
The Two-Way

China Smartphone Sales Shrink, Market 'Increasingly Saturated,' Report Says

Originally published on Thu May 14, 2015 9:39 am

Analysts say so many people in China already have smartphones, to sell more units, manufacturers will have to convince them to upgrade.
Andy Wong AP

Smartphone sales in China contracted by about 4 percent year-on-year from January through March, according to International Data Corp., the American market analysis firm. Sales for the first quarter were just under 100 million. IDC says this is the first time in six years that the smartphone market in China declined year-on-year.

Read more

4:05pm

Mon May 11, 2015
Parallels

Shanghai Tower: A Crown For The City's Futuristic Skyline

Originally published on Tue May 12, 2015 10:40 am

The twisting Shanghai Tower (right) is the world's second-tallest building and opens soon.
Shen Zhonghai Gensler

Shanghai is one of the world's most vertical cities, a metropolis where 50-story buildings are routine. At night, the cityscape is so cinematic, it has been featured in both James Bond and Mission Impossible films.

This year, Shanghai Tower, the world's second-tallest building, will open and put an exclamation point on Shanghai's futuristic skyline. The structure, which measures 2,073 feet, is loaded with symbolism.

Read more

2:51pm

Mon May 4, 2015
Parallels

People's Republic Of Uber: Making Friends, Chauffeuring People In China

Originally published on Tue May 5, 2015 3:38 pm

Joel Xu, 25, drives in Shanghai for People's Uber, a ride-sharing service. He makes about $4,000 a month – a good wage in Shanghai – and loves meeting new people he'd otherwise never encounter.
Frank Langfitt NPR

When Cici Xu isn't working as an accountant, she's driving around Shanghai picking up passengers for People's Uber, the American company's nonprofit ride-sharing service that operates in nine mainland Chinese cities.

Xu, 40, makes about $1,300 a month as a driver, but says she doesn't really do it for the money.

Read more

5:06am

Fri April 24, 2015
The Two-Way

China's Latest Target: Funeral Strippers

Originally published on Fri April 24, 2015 5:32 am

A screenshot of a striptease act at a funeral in February in China's Hebei province.
Weibo

Looking for a way to give a departed loved one a send-off everyone will remember?

How about hiring strippers to perform at the funeral?

In some parts of rural China, this is not considered absurd, but a good idea.

Read more

4:26am

Mon April 20, 2015
Parallels

So Long 'Cinderella,' Website Helps Chinese Find Better English Names

Originally published on Tue April 21, 2015 9:38 pm

The website bestenglishname.com uses the answers to questions about subjects such as music, sports and personal style to generate suitable English names.
Via bestenglishname.com

Cinderella. Billboard. Mo Money. Lady Gaga.

What do they all have in common?

They are a few of the unusual English names young Chinese have adopted over the years in hopes of mixing more easily with Westerners. Such offbeat names, though, sometimes have the opposite effect, generating puzzlement and the wrong kind of smiles.

Lindsay Jernigan, an American entrepreneur, has set up a new website, bestenglishname.com, to help Chinese choose more appropriate names.

Read more

5:13pm

Wed April 8, 2015
Parallels

Sidewalk Touts Trade Tips On Shanghai's Booming Bull Market

Originally published on Thu April 9, 2015 9:50 am

Money is pouring into the stock market, but most new investors only have a middle-school education, says Texas A&M University economist Gan Li.
Frank Langfitt NPR

On weekend afternoons, large crowds descend on a pair of street corners across from People's Square in downtown Shanghai to trade stock tips. Shen Yuxi has set up a homemade desk with two laptops, a big flat screen and offers insights like this:

"When a Communist Party chairman takes office, I buy stock in companies from his hometown," Shen tells a crowd of about 20 people that spills out over the sidewalk.

Recently, Shen has been buying up companies in Shaanxi, the home province of Xi Jinping, who serves as general secretary of China's Communist Party.

Read more

1:03pm

Fri April 3, 2015
Parallels

For Chinese Migrant Workers, It Is Possible To Go Home Again

Originally published on Fri April 10, 2015 7:30 pm

Passengers go to the Nanchang railway station in eastern China in February 2014, at the end of the Chinese New Year holiday. In the past, it was often the only time of year that migrant workers were able to return home. Now, economic pressures on factories in coastal China have led to a reversal of a decades-long migration of workers from inland to the coast.
Zhou Ke Xinhua/Landov

Over the past couple of decades, a river of labor poured out of China's interior to its coasts as hundreds of millions of people traded farm for factory. Most improved their lives, but they paid for it in other ways, leaving behind families for a sometimes lonely existence.

These days, though, more and more factories are moving from the coast into China's countryside, creating an opportunity for more workers to come home — workers like Zhang Zhaojun, who left the mountains of Hubei province in central China in 2009.

Read more

8:46am

Thu March 26, 2015
Asia

An NPR Reporter Chauffeurs A Chinese Couple 500 Miles To Their Rural Wedding

Originally published on Tue April 7, 2015 9:49 am

Frank Langfitt/NPR

Read this essay in Chinese.

That's me (with scarf) in what's becoming my natural element, driving Chinese people around Shanghai and beyond for a series called "Streets of Shanghai." Usually, I offer free rides around the city so I can meet different kinds of people and get a sense of real life in China, where things move so fast a generation can be measured in five years.

Read more

Pages