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
1:35 am
Thu May 21, 2015

Why A Chinese Government Think Tank Attacked American Scholars

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

Originally published on Fri May 22, 2015 4:23 am

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."

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Asia
2:58 am
Mon May 18, 2015

How China's Censors Influence Hollywood

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

Originally published on Mon May 18, 2015 5:58 pm

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The Two-Way
5:53 pm
Tue May 12, 2015

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

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

Originally published on Thu May 14, 2015 7:39 am

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.

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Parallels
2:50 pm
Mon May 11, 2015

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

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

Originally published on Tue May 12, 2015 8:40 am

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.

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Parallels
12:25 pm
Mon May 4, 2015

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

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

Originally published on Tue May 5, 2015 1:38 pm

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.

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The Two-Way
3:12 am
Fri April 24, 2015

China's Latest Target: Funeral Strippers

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

Originally published on Fri April 24, 2015 3:32 am

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.

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Parallels
3:01 am
Mon April 20, 2015

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

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

Originally published on Tue April 21, 2015 7:38 pm

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.

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Asia
2:15 pm
Wed April 8, 2015

Sidewalk Touts Trade Tips On Shanghai's Booming Bull Market

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

Originally published on Thu April 9, 2015 7:50 am

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.

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Parallels
11:03 am
Fri April 3, 2015

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

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

Originally published on Fri April 10, 2015 5:30 pm

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.

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Asia
6:46 am
Thu March 26, 2015

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

Frank Langfitt/NPR

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

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.

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Asia
3:24 am
Thu March 26, 2015

Modern Love in China: Shaking Your Smartphone To Find Your Soul Mate

Charles and his bride Xiao Fang met through a social media app where they connected by shaking their smartphones at the same time. NPR's Frank Langfitt met Charles in Shanghai and drove him 500 miles to his family's home in central China for the wedding.
Frank Langfitt/NPR

Originally published on Tue March 31, 2015 7:35 am

One night a couple of years ago, a young woman named Xiao Fang was at home amid the rice fields of central China's Hubei province. She'd just bought a smartphone and was trying to make friends on WeChat, China's go-to social media app. She began using a function that allows people to find one another when they shake their phones simultaneously.

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Asia
4:34 am
Wed March 25, 2015

2 Brothers In Rural China Beat The Odds; Practice Law In Shanghai

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 6:18 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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Asia
3:09 am
Tue March 24, 2015

500 Mile Free Ride Beats Crowded Train Over China's New Year

Originally published on Tue March 24, 2015 8:10 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Asia
2:44 pm
Fri February 27, 2015

New Chinese Social Media Policy May Be Used To Target Political Speech

Originally published on Fri February 27, 2015 6:13 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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Goats and Soda
2:44 pm
Thu February 5, 2015

Why Is Nearsightedness Skyrocketing Among Chinese Youth?

Originally published on Fri February 20, 2015 1:24 pm

If you walk the streets of China today, you'll quickly notice that most young people wear glasses. In Shanghai, for instance, 86 percent of high school students suffer from myopia, or nearsightedness, according to the government's Xinhua News Agency.

Myopia has risen quickly in much of East Asia and Southeast Asia. And researchers are still trying to pin down exactly what's driving the epidemic.

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Parallels
1:56 am
Tue February 3, 2015

The Oscar Nominees Are In; The Shanghai DVD Sellers Are Stocking Up

Some DVD vendors in Shanghai still sell on the street, but a government crackdown forced most out of business or into storefronts.
Frank Langfitt NPR

Originally published on Sun February 8, 2015 9:40 pm

The Academy Awards are coming this month, and if you're still trying to see all the Oscar-nominated films, it may be easier to find them in China than in the U.S.

A few weeks ago, the films flooded into the pirated-DVD store down the street from my apartment in Shanghai. It happens like clockwork every year.

I asked T.J. Green, an American executive who runs a small movie theater company here in China, to visit the store and explain what was happening.

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Parallels
11:34 am
Wed January 28, 2015

China Continues To Push The (Fake) Envelope

Some fake Apple stores like this one in Kunming, in China's southwestern Yunnan province, were so authentic-looking that even some of their employees didn't know they were fake.
Stephen Shaver UPI/Landov

Originally published on Wed January 28, 2015 4:20 pm

Nobody does fake like China. In 2011, a fake Apple store popped up in the southwestern city of Kunming. It looked so authentic, even some employees thought it was real.

This year, three farmers in central China set up a fake local government.

This month, police shut down a fake bank in the eastern city of Nanjing, where depositors reportedly lost nearly $33 million.

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The Two-Way
6:59 am
Wed January 21, 2015

Shanghai Fires 4 Officials Over Fatal New Year's Eve Stampede

On Jan. 1, people gathered at a makeshift memorial marking the site of a New Year's Eve stampede on the Bund in Shanghai, China. Three dozen people died, and dozens more were injured.
Kevin Frayer Getty Images

Originally published on Thu January 22, 2015 12:57 am

The Shanghai government has fired four local officials for failing to prevent a stampede that killed three dozen people on New Year's Eve. Those who lost their jobs include Shanghai's Huangpu district Communist Party chief, its director and its top two police officials.

Investigators say that as huge crowds packed the riverfront in the Huangpu district, district party Chief Zhou Wei and other officials were busy enjoying a banquet at an opulent Japanese restaurant nearby.

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Asia
3:12 am
Thu January 15, 2015

American Film On A Tibetan Migrant Finds Unlikely Success — In China

Zanta now lives on the outskirts of Beijing.
Courtesy of Jocelyn Ford

Originally published on Mon March 2, 2015 8:16 am

An American filmmaker has made a documentary on Tibet. Those two elements alone might seem grounds for China's Communist Party to ban it, but instead the film — Nowhere to Call Home — quietly has been making the rounds in China and winning praise from local audiences.

The reason? The film is an even-handed, deeply personal story that steers clear of politics. Journalist Jocelyn Ford spent years documenting the life of Zanta, a Tibetan migrant who fled her poor, mountain village to build a life for herself and her son in Beijing.

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Parallels
9:23 am
Fri January 2, 2015

Along Shanghai's River, Buddhist Tradition Meets Greedy Fishermen

Buddhists pour fish into the river in Shanghai. Environmentalists say the ritual, while well-intentioned, can introduce invasive species. Many of the fish are quickly swooped up in nets by fishermen who position themselves nearby.
Julia Langfitt for NPR

Originally published on Thu February 12, 2015 4:49 pm

China today is a whirlwind of competing trends: authoritarianism versus personal freedom; pollution versus environmentalism, and self-interest versus spirituality.

That last conflict plays out every other Sunday morning in Shanghai when hundreds of Buddhists pack the banks of the city's Huangpu River. Monks in saffron-colored robes lead believers in song in the shadow of some of the world's tallest skyscrapers.

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Parallels
10:51 am
Wed December 24, 2014

China's Fierce Anti-Corruption Crackdown: An Insider's View

China's President Xi Jinping, shown speaking in Bruges, Belgium, back in April, has made fighting corruption one of his top priorities. Many Chinese bureaucrats are angry, saying a loss of bribes has greatly reduced their incomes.
Yves Logghe AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue December 30, 2014 8:03 am

A government job in China used to be a gravy train: easy hours, little scrutiny and — usually — a chance to make good money through perks and corruption. This year, though, the 1.4 million candidates who signed up to take China's civil service exam marked a drop of more than 100,000 from the previous year.

Most people think the reason is the government's fierce anti-corruption drive, which has taken a lot of the profit out of public service. Recently, a low-level Shanghai official vented to NPR about life under China's toughest crackdown in modern memory.

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Parallels
1:27 am
Tue December 23, 2014

Reporter Offers Free Cab Rides For Stories From 'Streets Of Shanghai'

NPR reporter Frank Langfitt and one of his "customers," a biotech worker, whom he drove to a self-help conference in Shanghai's sprawling Pudong District.
NPR

Originally published on Tue December 23, 2014 8:30 am

Editor's Note: NPR Shanghai correspondent Frank Langfitt once drove a taxi as a summer job. He decided to do it again, this time offering free rides around Shanghai in exchange for stories about one of the world's most dynamic cities. This is the first in an occasional series.

I've been working on an unusual reporting project this fall in Shanghai. I picked up a car and have been driving around the city offering people free rides.

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Asia
2:35 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Hong Kong Demonstrators Hope End Of Protests Not An End To The Fight

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 4:39 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Asia
2:55 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Police Finish Dismantling Hong Kong Protest Sites

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 7:14 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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Asia
3:12 am
Thu December 4, 2014

Divide Occurs Between Hong Kong Democracy Protesters

Originally published on Thu December 4, 2014 5:57 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Asia
3:18 am
Wed December 3, 2014

Hong Kong Visitors Tour Protest Site Where History Is Being Made

Originally published on Fri December 5, 2014 4:22 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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Asia
3:07 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Hong Kong Protesters Make Last-Ditch Effort To Negotiate

Originally published on Thu December 4, 2014 6:19 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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Asia
3:06 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Defiant Hong Kong Protesters Try To Blockade Government Headquarters

Originally published on Mon December 1, 2014 5:24 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Asia
2:23 pm
Thu November 27, 2014

China Has To Kick Smoking Habit Or Health Care Costs Could Be Huge

Originally published on Thu November 27, 2014 5:12 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

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Parallels
8:21 am
Sun November 23, 2014

After 2 Months, Hong Kong Residents Want Protesters To Head Home

A census by protesters estimates the main protest camp in Hong Kong is home to about 2,200 tents, but most are empty these days as crowds have dwindled.
Frank Langfitt NPR

Originally published on Mon November 24, 2014 12:15 pm

Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests, the longest of their kind on Chinese soil since the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising, turn 2 months old on Sunday.

In early October, the demonstrations grabbed media attention around the world and galvanized Hong Kongers, but now most of them just want the protests to end. Independent polls show people overwhelmingly oppose the continued occupation of city streets because it's inconvenient and appears to be futile.

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