KTEP - El Paso, Texas

Anthony Kuhn

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Bejing, China, covering the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Throughout his coverage he has taken an interest in China's rich traditional culture and its impact on the current day. He has recorded the sonic calling cards of itinerant merchants in Beijing's back alleys, and the descendants of court musicians of the Tang Dynasty. He has profiled petitioners and rights lawyers struggling for justice, and educational reformers striving to change the way Chinese think.

From 2010-2013, Kuhn was NPR's Southeast Asia correspondent, based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Among other stories, he explored Borneo and Sumatra, and witnessed the fight to preserve the biodiversity of the world's oldest forests. He also followed Myanmar's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, as she rose from political prisoner to head of state.

During a previous tour in China from 2006-2010, Kuhn covered the Beijing Olympics, and the devastating Sichuan earthquake that preceded it. He looked at life in the heart of Lhasa, Tibet's capital, and the recovery of Japan's northeast coast after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Kuhn served as NPR's correspondent in London from 2004-2005, covering stories including the London subway bombings, and the marriage of the Prince of Wales to the Duchess of Cornwall.

Besides his major postings, Kuhn's journalistic horizons have been expanded by various short-term assignments. These produced stories including wartime black humor in Iraq, musical diplomacy by the New York Philharmonic in Pyongyang, North Korea, a kerfuffle over the plumbing in Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Pakistani artists' struggle with religious extremism in Lahore, and the Syrian civil war's spillover into neighboring Lebanon.

Previous to joining NPR, Kuhn wrote for the Far Eastern Economic Review and freelanced for various news outlets, including the Los Angeles Times and Newsweek. He majored in French Literature as an undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis, and later did graduate work at the Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American Studies in Nanjing.

In Chinese, the back story to a movie or news item is called huaxu, or flower catkins. In other words, fluff.

That's the headline describing a video clip of me on Sina Weibo, China's answer to Twitter, and the country's main microblogging platform, with more than 500 million registered users.

The clip shows me asking a question at a government press conference on March 6. Less than a day after its posting, the clip had been viewed 5 million times.

In recent winters, severe smog has blanketed northern China with a grim regularity, triggering emergency measures in scores of cities. What has been changing in recent years is how some ordinary Chinese citizens, particularly those in the growing middle class — who have the means to take action — have chosen to respond to the pollution.

The Indonesian island of Java has long been synonymous with coffee. But it's only in the past decade or so that Indonesians have begun to wake up and smell the coffee — their own, that is.

Big changes are brewing in the country's coffee industry, as demand from a rising middle class fuels entrepreneurship and connoisseurship.

The trend is clear at places like the Anomali Coffee shop in South Jakarta. It roasts its coffee just inside the entrance on the ground floor.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Malaysia and North Korea are wrangling over whether a man who died at the Kuala Lumpur airport last week is indeed Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Among the many countries trying to figure out what to make of it is North Korea's neighbor and sole ally, China.

Officially, China has said little except that it is closely monitoring the situation. But in China, Kim Jong Nam's apparent assassination has triggered a debate about what it means and how to respond.

President Trump spoke to around 20 world leaders before calling China's president, Xi Jinping.

But he finally did it Thursday evening.

And despite earlier remarks threatening to upend long-standing U.S. policy, Trump promised Xi that Washington will stick to the "One China" doctrine.

That policy was enacted when the U.S. established diplomatic relations with Beijing almost 40 years ago. It allows the U.S. to maintain relations with both China and a de facto independent Taiwan.

As he wends his way through the crowded alleys of a low-income neighborhood, Jakarta Gov. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama stops to pick up a young Muslim girl in a headscarf, as residents and reporters snap pictures.

He stops at a local mosque, where an all female-percussion team strikes up a groove with drums and tambourines to cheer him on in his campaign for re-election.

None of his supporters seem to mind that Basuki, commonly known by his Chinese nickname, "Ahok," is Christian and an ethnic Chinese — the first time such a person has governed the capital.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Little white chips fly off in every direction with each blow of master ivory carver Li Chunke's chisel.

Gradually, the folds of a robe, tassels and hands of an ancient Chinese woman begin to emerge from a rough piece of ivory in front of him in his Beijing workshop.

Li says nothing looks as smooth, nothing can be carved as intricately or expressively as ivory. Wood and jade are too brittle.

"Whether I'm carving animal or human figures, I try to express their feelings," he says. "That's what Chinese consider most important."

China's police are under fire this week as citizens blast Beijing authorities' decision not to prosecute police following the death of a 28-year-old environmentalist, Lei Yang.

Many observers see this as a landmark case that flies in the face of pledges by China's leaders to prevent miscarriages of justice and curb the arbitrary exercise of state power.

Earlier this month, China's Supreme Court reversed a lower court's ruling and proclaimed Nie Shubin not guilty of raping and murdering a woman in a cornfield in northern Hebei Province more than two decades ago, in 1994.

Nie's mother, Zhang Huanzhi, has long campaigned on her son's behalf. She says she hurried to inform him of the verdict.

"I sent him a photocopy of the verdict," she says. "That is, I sent it to him by burning it. I feel he must be happy about it."

She burned the document before her son's grave, believing it would reach him in the afterlife.

Tourists are drawn to the shores of Lugu Lake in southwest China by tales of an exotic "Kingdom of Daughters," where the women of the Mosuo ethnic group head one of the world's relatively rare matrilineal societies.

In fact, the tourists have created their share of problems over the years.

The Mosuo's "walking marriages," in which Mosuo women traditionally were allowed to have multiple lovers, have enticed some tourists to try to take liberties with local women.

In the year 1054, Chinese astronomers of the Song Dynasty recorded a star in the sky so bright that it was visible to the naked eye even during daytime for several weeks.

China was the world's leading scientific power at that time. But its people also saw astronomical events as omens of earthly affairs. And so the astronomers carefully recorded the location of the star and the time it was visible.

The past couple of weeks have seen U.S. and Chinese warships holding maneuvers in the South China Sea, and the president of a country that's a U.S. treaty ally, the Philippines, snubbing the U.S. and aligning himself with China.

Some observers see all of this as a blow to the U.S. strategic position in Asia, and further evidence of a looming showdown between the U.S. and China.

U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus, however, remains upbeat about the relationship.

China's ruling Communist Party is pledging tighter discipline than ever for its 88 million members and no let up in a four-year anti-corruption campaign that has seen more than 1 million officials investigated for graft.

Huang Xian'er came of age while watching Internet celebrities' streaming videos on her smartphone in western China's Yinchuan city.

"My mom knew I was watching Internet stars in school," she recalls. "She simplistically thought that all Internet stars sell clothes, get plastic surgery and all look the same."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

One of North Vietnam's most recognizable wartime voices fell silent last Friday, when former radio broadcaster Trinh Thi Ngo, dubbed "Hanoi Hannah" by American service members, died.

Her former employer, the government-run Voice of Vietnam, reported the news on its website Sunday. The radio service says Trinh was 87 when she died, though there are conflicting reports about the year of her birth.

For the past couple of decades, night owls with the munchies have flocked to a certain street in Beijing that is packed with all-night restaurants. The sidewalks are jammed with cars and have a perpetual patina of rancid-smelling cooking oil.

One of the trendier restaurants on the block is called A Very Long Time Ago. The decor is upscale Paleolithic, with silhouettes of cavemen traipsing across the walls. The clientele is not so fossilized. They're mostly 20-somethings who roast skewers of food over hot coals.

If you have kids or know kids who complain about their commute to school, then consider the challenges facing the children in the Atule'er village in southwest China's Sichuan province.

The schoolkids are walking half-a-mile vertically each way, and they must navigate steep cliffs, hundreds of feet high, on rickety wooden ladders to get to and from school. It illustrates the yawning chasm between China's gleaming first-world cities and its impoverished hinterland, and the difficulties faced by China's many ethnic minorities.

The relationship between the U.S. and China these days is fraught with political tensions. But both countries are committed to sending more of their young people to study language and culture in each other's countries — and a component of that is sending more U.S. minority students to China.

That's both to provide more students of color with the opportunity to study overseas, and to create a student body abroad that is more representative of U.S. diversity.

According to China's education ministry, 21,975 American students studied in China in 2015.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

China was rattled physically and politically Friday by North Korea's nuclear test, its second this year and fifth overall. It caused a magnitude 5.3 seismic event that caused strong tremors in towns and cities on the border between the two countries, according to the Chinese media.

But as with previous tests, it's unlikely to provoke a strong Chinese response.

Human rights lawyers in China have defended some of the country's most dispossessed citizens: migrant laborers, ethnic and religious minorities, victims of land grabs, and of course, political dissidents.

Now these attorneys face an even tougher challenge: defending themselves.

Government prosecutors are preparing to try another batch of rights lawyers, charged with crimes of subversion. Since July 2015, authorities have arrested or questioned most of the country's estimated 300 rights lawyers.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Autograph-seeking fans and journalists thronged China's newly minted Olympic sensation, 20-year-old swimmer Fu Yuanhui, at the Beijing airport on Tuesday.

Just days after editors ended publication of China's leading liberal history journal last month, a new edition of the magazine is out again. But the original publishers are calling this a pirate edition — and they're preparing to fight it in court.

The magazine, the Annals of the Chinese Nation, or Yanhuang Chunqiu in Chinese, is seen as the standard bearer of the embattled liberal wing of China's ruling Communist Party. The publication has made bold calls for democratic reforms and questions the party's version of history.

Pages