NPR: 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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4:00am

Thu November 3, 2011
Economy

China Warily Eyes E.U. Bailout

Originally published on Thu November 3, 2011 7:54 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. To understand the European debt crisis, it helps to keep track of both the short-term and the long-term. In the short-term, Europeans have agreed on a bailout deal that among other things would cut the debts of Greece. It's being held up by the Greek prime minister's plan to hold a referendum on austerity measures. Europeans have told Greece it's got to decide soon if it wants to be part of the eurozone or not.

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3:56am

Wed November 2, 2011
Asia

At IKEA In Shanghai, Do-It-Yourself Matchmaking

Originally published on Wed November 2, 2011 8:23 pm

An elderly Chinese man and woman chat at a park in Shanghai. Hundreds of elderly Shanghai residents make their way to IKEA twice a week for an informal lonely hearts club.
Mark Ralston AFP/Getty Images

If you're retired, single and looking for love in Shanghai, try IKEA.

Twice a week, hundreds of Shanghai residents who have formed an informal lonely hearts club of sorts gather at the cafeteria of the Swedish furniture megastore for free coffee and conversation.

The pensioners begin arriving around 1 in the afternoon and fill nearly 20 tables in the store cafeteria. They sit for hours drinking coffee, gossiping and subtly checking each other out.

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4:39am

Mon October 31, 2011
7 Billion And Counting

Nations Grow Populations, And Face New Problems

Originally published on Wed November 2, 2011 12:34 pm

Lujiazui, Shanghai's financial district, includes the world's third- and sixth-tallest buildings. The city's population is 23 million.

Frank Langfitt NPR

NPR's Frank Langfitt has spent the past year reporting in two countries where the populations and the problems could not be more different: South Sudan and China.

The best way to travel in South Sudan is by plane. That's because, in a nation nearly the size of Texas, there are hardly any paved roads.

Earlier this year, I flew to Akobo County, near the Ethiopian border. On the hour-plus flight, I saw cattle herders and acacia trees, but mostly empty landscape. There was little sign of the 21st century — or the 20th.

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2:47pm

Tue October 25, 2011
Asia

Boom In Shadow Financing Exacts High Toll In China

Originally published on Tue October 25, 2011 8:26 pm

At least 80 business owners have abandoned factories like this one in Wenzhou, China's entrepreneurial capital, because they have run up exorbitant debts to the city's loan sharks and underground lenders.

Frank Langfitt NPR

In recent weeks, at least 80 business owners have fled Wenzhou in eastern China and gone into hiding because they can't pay crushing debts to the city's empire of underground lending firms and loan sharks.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao became so concerned that he flew to Wenzhou earlier in October to try to keep the problem from spreading.

The city's credit crisis highlights some of the flaws — and potential risks — of the banking system in the world's second-largest economy.

Business Owners Trapped By Debt

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5:23pm

Thu October 6, 2011
Asia

Something's Fishy About Chinese Hairy Crabs

Originally published on Tue October 11, 2011 10:57 am

Hairy crabs are extremely popular in China. These were in a market in the eastern province of Jiangsu.

China Photos Getty Images

Fake products permeate nearly every corner of China's economy. Earlier this year, the trend seemed to reach a new low when phony Apple stores were exposed in southwestern China.

Each fall, the fakery even extends to the world of seafood and East China's Yangcheng Lake, which is just a short train ride from Shanghai. Yangcheng is home to what are reputed to be China's tastiest and most expensive hairy crabs.

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12:01am

Mon October 3, 2011
Asia

China's Red-Hot Growth Gives Policymakers Pause

Originally published on Tue October 4, 2011 7:19 am

Earlier this year, Shanghai tried to slow down real estate sales by restricting some deals. It's part of a broader Chinese government plan to slow the country's staggering growth.
Eugene Hoshiko AP

The U.S. economy is struggling to grow. The European Union is trying to contain a debt crisis. And, in a case of bad timing, the world's fastest-growing major economy, China, is trying to slow down.

Shanghai has been one of the world's hottest real estate markets, but it's too hot for Chinese officials who are fighting high inflation and what some fear is a housing bubble.

Earlier this year, the Shanghai government tried to slow down real estate sales by restricting people from outside the city from buying more than one property.

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12:01am

Tue September 13, 2011
Asia

In Northern Japan, Residents Face A New Reality

Originally published on Tue September 13, 2011 8:22 pm

A 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck Japan offshore on March 11, setting into motion a tsunami that engulfed large parts of northeastern Japan and triggered a nuclear meltdown at a power plant in Fukushima. On March 26, a man walks among debris in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, Japan.
Athit Perawongmetha Getty Images

Miyo Tatebayashi used to live about three miles from the Fukushima nuclear plant, which suffered a crippling accident when the March 11 tsunami struck Japan.

On a recent day, she had just returned from a government-organized trip to the radiation zone in Fukushima prefecture along Japan's northeast coast. She had wanted to see her house.

"When I got out of the bus with my daughter, we were smiling. 'It's there,' " she recalls saying. "But when we actually saw our place, I thought, 'Oh, there is no way.' "

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1:25pm

Tue September 6, 2011
Asia

After Nuclear Mishap, Japan Debates Energy Future

Japan faces a dilemma: the country lacks natural resources and relies heavily on nuclear power. But in the wake of the nuclear accident in March, 70 percent of Japanese now say they want to phase out atomic energy.

It's a huge, long-term challenge. Even backers of renewable energy say it could take two generations for Japan to become nuclear free.

But Japan was taking action even before the accident at the Fukushima power plant on the country's northeast coast.

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3:24pm

Mon August 29, 2011
Asia

In Japan, Next Prime Minister Faces Many Skeptics

Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda was chosen leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan on Monday, Aug. 29, 2011. That all but assures his selection as Japan's next prime minister.
Hiro Komae AP

Japan is about to get a new prime minster — the sixth in five years.

As early as Tuesday, Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda could formally get the job.

He all but captured the post Monday when he won the leadership race of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan. The challenges he faces will be huge. They include helping Japan recover from last spring's devastating nuclear and natural disasters and winning over a skeptical public.

That skepticism was on display Monday.

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12:01am

Wed August 24, 2011
Asia

After Quake, Japanese Fishing Port Remains At Risk

Most of Kesennuma's large fishing boats either survived the tsunami or have been repaired. But many do not move from the dock, because most of the city's fish-processing factories still lie in ruins.
Frank Langfitt NPR

At first glance, the Japanese fishing port of Kesennuma looks like it's making a comeback from last March's devastating tsunami. A half-dozen fishing boats arrive one morning in this city of 70,000 and unload tons of bonito onto a partially rebuilt port.

The fish roll down a conveyor, beneath a fresh-water shower, and splash into plastic bins filled with ice water. Mitsuo Iwabuchi, a wholesaler bidding on the catch, says the port is improving, but the infrastructure that drives it, including scores of fish-processing and ice-making factories, still lies in ruins.

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3:07pm

Fri August 19, 2011
Asia

In Japan, Restoring Photos For Tsunami Victims

Becci Manson has spent the past few months on Japan's northeast coast restoring photos damaged by the tsunami.
Frank Langfitt NPR

Each week, tsunami survivors gather at temporary housing centers in the city of Yamada along Japan's northeast coast. They sing songs to cheer themselves up and comb through salvaged photos.

One morning, Miyoko Fukushi finds an old picture from the opening day of her daughter's elementary school. It's a formal shot of the students' mothers, wearing kimonos with their hands in their laps. Fukushi, 77, points to a younger version of herself.

"I was chubbier when I was young," she says with a laugh.

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6:48am

Mon August 8, 2011
Asia

Japan Rethinks Its Relationship With The Atom

Over the weekend, Japan commemorated the 66th anniversary of the American bombing of Hiroshima. Some used the event to protest nuclear energy. This spring's massive earthquake caused a meltdown at a nuclear plant north of Tokyo. The recent disaster has many Japanese re-thinking their nation's relationship with nuclear energy.

9:07am

Sun August 7, 2011
World

Nuclear Power Criticized On Hiroshima Anniversary

Saturday, Japan commemorated the 66th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima, but the ceremony was different this year.

In March, a massive earthquake triggered a meltdown at the Japanese nuclear plant in Fukushima. The plant continues to leak radiation in the worst atomic accident since Chernobyl. Saturday's ceremony focused on the nuclear attack on Japan in 1945, but the country's ongoing nuclear disaster loomed large.

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12:01am

Tue June 21, 2011
China: Beyond Borders

Will Kenyan Superhighway Also Benefit China?

Three Chinese companies are building a massive superhighway in Kenya linking Nairobi with the city of Thika. The road, as wide as 16 lanes, is the biggest of its kind in East Africa.
Frank Langfitt NPR

This month, NPR is examining the many ways China is expanding its reach in the world — through investment, infrastructure, military power and more.

Chinese companies are scouring Africa for resources to fuel a red-hot economy back home, but Beijing is interested in more than just what's underground.

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10:57am

Thu June 16, 2011
Africa

South Sudan Battles Poaching In Quest For Tourism

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:44 am

A radio-tracking collar worn by a tiang was cut off by hunters after the animal was shot. Conservationists track wildlife in South Sudan to help the government devise anti-poaching strategies after decades of devastating civil war.
Frank Langfitt NPR

When people think of Sudan, they think burning villages, civil war. Wildlife tourism? Not really. But South Sudan wants to change that.

Next month, it will secede and become the world's newest nation, and officials there want people to come see the animals.

It turns out many antelopes, elephants and even some giraffes survived the civil war between the north and the south. Now, South Sudan is trying to protect them and build a tourism business — from scratch.

Poaching Prevention

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4:05pm

Wed June 15, 2011
Africa

South Sudan Works To Aid Wildlife That Survived War

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:45 am

Conservationists feared most of South Sudan's wildlife had been killed during more than two decades of civil war, but a survey several years ago found many had survived, including hundreds of thousands of white-eared kobs.
Frank Langfitt NPR

South Sudan is poised to become the world's newest country in just a few weeks. Two decades of civil war cost more than 2 million lives and wiped out much of the region's wildlife — but not all of it.

A few years ago, conservationists made a surprising discovery: large herds of antelopes and elephants. The government of South Sudan and the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society are now trying to protect animals that were once thought lost to war.

Saving Animals

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12:01am

Wed June 15, 2011
China: Beyond Borders

In Nigeria, Chinatown Vendors Struggle For Profits

The Chinatown in Lagos, Nigeria, was built in 2004. It's home to more than 100 shops that sell everything from ceramic coffee cups to Hannah Montana backpacks.
Frank Langfitt NPR

This month, NPR is examining the many ways China is expanding its reach in the world — through investments, infrastructure, military power and more. In this installment, a tale of two Chinatowns in very different circumstances — one in Nigeria and the other in the Italian town of Prato.

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8:00am

Sun April 17, 2011
Africa

Cattle Rustling A Deadly Business In Sudan

Cattle rustling sounds like a quaint notion from the 19th century American West, but in South Sudan — soon be the world's newest nation — it's a very modern and very real problem. Sudanese cattle raiding isn't like the Old West with Winchester rifles. It's the African Bush with automatic weapons — and high body counts.

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12:01am

Fri April 15, 2011
Africa

Inside The Pirate Business: From Booty To Bonuses

The last in a three-part series.

In recent years, Somali piracy has grown into a multimillion-dollar criminal enterprise. Rarely a week goes by that pirates don't attack or seize a ship.

Ransoms now average between $4 million and $5 million, and researchers estimate as many as 2,000 pirates operate from Somalia's shores.

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12:01am

Thu April 14, 2011
Africa

Catching Pirates With A Kind Of Neighborhood Watch

The second in a three-part series.

Somalia is among the world's most lawless countries. That's one reason piracy thrives there. After hijacking ships, pirates return to shore, where government turns a blind eye — or may not even exist.

But one part of Somalia — a self-ruling region called Somaliland — is slowly trying to build the rule of law and a sense of civic duty. The result: Ordinary citizens occasionally catch pirates and turn them in. It's an informal, coastal neighborhood watch.

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12:01am

Wed April 13, 2011
Africa

Somaliland Struggles In Effort To Fight Piracy

The first in a three-part series.

Somali piracy has become an epidemic.

Last year, Somali pirates seized more than a thousand hostages — a record. This year, they have already hijacked 15 vessels, including an American yacht whose four passengers were killed.

The government of Somaliland, a self-ruling part of Somalia, is trying to fight the problem with a ragtag coast guard and a new prison, but battling piracy is like fighting a stiff current.

A visit to the local jail in Somaliland's port of Berbera goes a long way toward explaining why.

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