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 β€” 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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Parallels
4:50 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 10:40 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
2:25 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 3:38 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
5:32 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

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
5:01 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 9:38 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
4:15 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 9:50 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
1:03 pm
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 7:30 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 β€” workers like Zhang Zhaojun, who left the mountains of Hubei province in central China in 2009.

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Asia
8:46 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 9:49 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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Goats and Soda
4:59 pm
Thu February 5, 2015

Why Is Nearsightedness Skyrocketing Among Chinese Youth?

Originally published on Fri February 20, 2015 3:24 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
3:56 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 11:40 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
1:34 pm
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 6:20 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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