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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International Politics
7:01 am
Tue October 28, 2014

China May Drop 9 Crimes From List Of Death Penalty Offenses

Police officers stand guard in front of the Hefei City Intermediate People's Court in China's Anhui Province.
Andy Wong AP

Chinese lawmakers are considering removing nine crimes from eligibility for the death penalty. A draft amendment to that effect went to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in Beijing this week. It appears to be part of a trend to reduce the use of the death penalty in a country that still executes more people than any other.

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The Two-Way
4:04 am
Thu October 23, 2014

Tweets In Hong Kong Put Kenny G In Jam With Communist Party

After deleting tweets from a Hong Kong protest site, Kenny G said he was "not trying to defy government orders."
Tomasz Gzell EPA/Landov

Originally published on Thu October 23, 2014 10:58 am

Politics between Hong Kong and mainland China are a minefield these days, and if Kenny G, the 1980s saxophone superstar, didn't know it, he does now.

Kenny G, who is hugely popular in mainland China, was in Hong Kong on Wednesday and decided to pop by the main pro-democracy protest camp, which is now in its fourth week.

He posed for photos with fans, flashed a peace sign and said he hoped the demonstrations would end peacefully.

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Parallels
8:47 am
Tue October 21, 2014

A Hong Kong Protest Camp Spawns Its Own Art

Frank Langfitt NPR

Originally published on Tue October 21, 2014 9:56 am

Now in its improbable fourth week, the main pro-democracy protest camp in Hong Kong's Admiralty district is a sort of Woodstock on the South China Sea.

A sea of tents, the camp teems with street art and propaganda posters. They range from sculptures and cartoons to protest banners and the "Lennon Wall" — a reference to John Lennon and a similar wall in Prague — where people have written thousands of messages on colored Post-it notes.

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Parallels
8:19 am
Sun October 19, 2014

An Urban Village Pops Up To Comfort Hong Kong Protesters

Student demonstrators don't want to fall behind on their studies, so volunteers built them an outdoor study hall. Some of the desks are built into the concrete highway divider.
Frank Langfitt NPR

Originally published on Mon October 20, 2014 8:43 am

Hong Kong's main pro-democracy protest camp turned three-weeks-old over the weekend. What began as a road block has grown into urban village with several hundred tents that attracts more than a thousand people at night.

The camp is a combo street fair, outdoor art gallery with political sculptures, propaganda posters as well as speeches, movie screenings and even a free library.

The vibe here is like an American college campus in the 1960s, except it's on an island on the edge of the South China Sea and surrounded by skyscrapers.

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Parallels
12:16 am
Fri October 17, 2014

Free Speech In Hong Kong, Then And Now

Pro-democracy protesters shout slogans during a standoff with police outside the central government offices in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong on Wednesday.
Ed Jones AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue October 21, 2014 11:37 am

I've been traveling to Hong Kong since 1997, when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule. Reporting on the pro-democracy protests in recent weeks, I've been struck by a change in the people here. Many are no longer willing to give their full names when talking about politics and the current protests.

A couple of nights ago I was interviewing a real estate agent in a pinstripe suit on an elevated walkway as police battled and pepper-sprayed demonstrators in the distance.

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Parallels
1:23 pm
Thu October 9, 2014

A Surprising Tie That Binds Hong Kong's Protest Leaders: Faith

A student prays in front of a temporary altar during a rally outside government headquarters in Hong Kong on Sept. 24.
Bobby Yip Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Thu October 9, 2014 6:45 pm

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong in the past two weeks, demanding democracy and grabbing global attention.

Many threads have run through the protests, including one that might seem surprising: faith. Many of the leaders are Christian, and some cite faith as an inspiration.

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Parallels
1:01 am
Thu October 9, 2014

Economics, Tensions With Mainlanders Fuel Hong Kong's Protests

Protesters dressed as Chinese Red Guards chant during a May demonstration in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong. People from Hong Kong staged a satirical rally to urge Chinese tourists to stay in mainland China. Competition for housing, grades and jobs between the two groups have produced deep tensions.
Anthony Kwan Getty Images

Originally published on Thu October 9, 2014 7:26 am

If the goal of the protesters who flooded Hong Kong streets in the past couple of weeks can be boiled down to a word, it's "democracy."

But many real-life worries have driven that demand, including economic ones. They range from frustration about jobs and high housing prices to competition — and a culture clash — with mainland Chinese.

Perry Chong, a die-hard protester, was sitting beneath a tent in a nearly abandoned protest zone Wednesday across from the city government headquarters.

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Parallels
1:22 pm
Tue October 7, 2014

After Clogging The Streets, Hong Kong Protests Dwindle

Two schoolgirls walk past a barricade on a street outside Hong Kong's government complex on Tuesday. Many protesters have returned to work and to school. Student leaders and government officials agreed Tuesday to hold talks on ending the protests.
Chris McGrath Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 8, 2014 6:45 am

Nixon Ma runs a small electronics shop in Hong Kong's Wanchai business district, and since the protests began late last month, he says, sales are down 30 percent.

Like the protesters, he wants to see genuine democracy in this former British colony. But he opposes the tactics of the demonstrators who filled the streets and disrupted businesses.

"I agree. I 100 percent support [the protesters], but not in this way," he says. "For example, taxi drivers, a lot of businesses are unhappy because it disturbs their normal lives," he says.

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Parallels
11:43 am
Mon October 6, 2014

On China's Mainland, A Less Charitable Take On Hong Kong's Protests

A woman walks past umbrellas with pro-democracy slogans written on them at a protest site near Hong Kong government headquarters on Saturday.
Wong Maye-E AP

Originally published on Mon October 6, 2014 4:31 pm

Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong have impressed people around the world with their idealism, politeness and guts. But in mainland China, the view is different.

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Parallels
2:46 am
Sat October 4, 2014

Gambling in Macau: A Reversal of Fortune ... And Values

Tourists gather in front of old and new Casino Lisboa during a Chinese New Year celebration in Macau, a special administrative region of China, on Feb. 1. For decades, the Lisboa was the only game in town. Now, the world's biggest gambling companies are scrambling to set up shot in what was once a sleepy Portuguese colony.
Vincent Yu AP

Originally published on Sat October 4, 2014 10:50 am

As casinos close in Atlantic City, more are rising halfway around the world in Macau, a Chinese territory on the edge of the South China Sea.

Macau already has 35 casinos, including the Venetian, which features gondoliers from Naples and Florence who belt out "O Sole Mio" along an ersatz canal as Chinese tourists snap pictures. In the next several years, Macau will add more multibillion-dollar gambling resorts modeled on Versailles and Paris.

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Parallels
6:55 am
Mon September 15, 2014

Chinese Teacher Is Busted After Demanding Gifts From Students

Originally published on Mon September 15, 2014 8:42 am

Chinese authorities have suspended a teacher after she was recorded berating her students for not providing teachers with gifts.

Many parents in China's hypercompetitive schooling system use gifts to try to buy influence.

The teacher, Feng Qunchao in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, harangued the high school students throughout the class.

"You don't take this seriously, huh?" she says, according to an audio tape. "Can't afford two or four dollars? You guys are a bunch of trash! A bunch of dog lungs," she adds, using a Chinese insult.

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Parallels
11:40 am
Fri September 12, 2014

Riding The 'Silver Dragon,' Surfers Tame China's 10-Foot River Waves

A team from Honolulu, which included Jamie O'Brien of Hawaii's North Shore, won this week's surfing competition, held on one of the world's two biggest tidal bores, located in Hangzhou, China. The other is in the Amazon.
Courtesy of Wabsono

Originally published on Fri September 12, 2014 8:01 pm

The hottest surfing in China this week wasn't along some palm-fringed beach in the south, but on a muddy, sometimes trash-strewn river in the eastern city of Hangzhou.

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Goats and Soda
12:21 am
Thu September 11, 2014

The Alibaba Effect: How China's eBay Transformed Village Economics

Handsome Zhang — that's his real name in Mandarin --€“ runs a shipping company, one of many supporting businesses spawned by East Wind village's furniture industry. The shipping business helped Zhang, 25, buy this Kia sports car.
Frank Langfitt NPR

Originally published on Thu September 11, 2014 7:58 am

The Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba is poised this week for what could be one of the biggest IPOs in Wall Street history. One reason Alibaba has been so dominant in China is its business-to-consumer platform, Taobao, a sort of Chinese eBay.

Last year, Taobao and Alibaba's brand-name retail site, Tmall, drove nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in transactions.

Along the way, Taobao has even transformed village economies.

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Parallels
10:54 am
Mon September 8, 2014

From A Chinese Apartment To Wall Street Darling: The Rise Of Alibaba

Jack Ma speaks in Hangzhou, China, on May 10, 2013. Ma shot to fame as the founder of Alibaba, the pioneering Chinese e-commerce site that's poised to be one of the biggest tech IPOs ever when it goes public in New York.
Peter Parks AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon September 8, 2014 5:23 pm

Like most great origin stories, the tale behind China's e-commerce giant, Alibaba, begins simply. In the winter of 1999, Jack Ma, a former English teacher, gathered friends in an apartment in the eastern city of Hangzhou.

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Arts
2:38 am
Sun September 7, 2014

China Gets A Big Dose Of Fine Art Photography

Peikwen Cheng; Praying from the Lost and Found Series, 2010.
Peikwen Cheng Courtesy of MD Gallery

Originally published on Mon September 8, 2014 2:24 am

China's largest fair devoted to fine art photography opened in Shanghai this weekend. The first-time event is called Photo Shanghai and includes more than 500 works from photographers around the world.

One of the exhibits drawing a lot of Chinese visitors this weekend is by photographer Zhang Kechun. One of the most striking images features a Buddha head, about 40 feet high, sitting in the middle of an open pit coal mine.

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