NPR: Louisa Lim

Beijing Correspondent Louisa Lim is currently attending the University of Michigan as a Knight-Wallace Fellow. She will return to her regular role in 2014.

Based in Beijing, NPR foreign correspondent Louisa Lim finds China a hugely diverse, vibrant, fascinating place. "Everywhere you look and everyone you talk to has a fascinating story," she notes, adding that she's "spoiled with choices" of stories to cover. In her reports, Lim takes "NPR listeners to places they never knew existed. I want to give them an idea of how China is changing and what that might mean for them."

Lim opened NPR's Shanghai bureau in February 2006, but she's reported for NPR from up Tibetan glaciers and down the shaft of a Shaanxi coalmine. She made a very rare reporting trip to North Korea, covered illegal abortions in Guangxi province, and worked on the major multimedia series on religion in China "New Believers: A Religious Revolution in China." Lim has been part of NPR teams who multiple awards, including the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, a Peabody and two Edward R. Murrow awards, for their coverage of the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 and the Beijing Olympics. She's been honored in the Human Rights Press Awards, as well as winning prizes for her multimedia work.

In 1995, Lim moved to Hong Kong and worked at the Eastern Express newspaper until its demise six months later and then for TVB Pearl, the local television station. Eventually Lim joined the BBC, working first for five years at the World Service in London, and then as a correspondent at the BBC in Beijing for almost three years.

Lim found her path into journalism after graduating with a degree in Modern Chinese studies from Leeds University in England. She worked as an editor, polisher, and translator at a state-run publishing company in China, a job that helped her strengthen her Chinese. Simultaneously, she began writing for a magazine and soon realized her talents fit perfectly with journalism.

NPR London correspondent Rob Gifford, who previously spent six years reporting from China for NPR, thinks that Lim is uniquely suited for his former post. "Not only does Louisa have a sharp journalistic brain," Gifford says, "but she sees stories from more than one angle, and can often open up a whole new understanding of an issue through her reporting. By listening to Louisa's reports, NPR listeners will certainly get a feel for what 21st century China is like. It is no longer a country of black and white, and the complexity is important, a complexity that you always feel in Louisa's intelligent, nuanced reporting."

Out of all of her reporting, Lim says she most enjoys covering stories that are quirky or slightly offbeat. However, she gravitates towards reporting on arts stories with a deeper significance. For example, early in her tenure at NPR, Lim highlighted a musical on stage in Seoul, South Korea, based on a North Korean prison camp. The play, and Lim's piece, highlighted the ignorance of many South Koreans of the suffering of their northern neighbors.

Married with a son and a daughter, Lim recommends any NPR listeners travelling to Shanghai stop by a branch of her husband's Yunnan restaurant, Southern Barbarian, where they can snack on deep fried bumblebees, a specialty from that part of southwest China. In Beijing, her husband owns and runs what she calls "the first and best fish and chip shop in China", Fish Nation.



Wed December 14, 2011

And You Thought The Tiger Mother Was Tough

Wolf Dad XiaoBaiyou at home, where he drew up more than a thousand rules for his kids. Any transgression earned the kids a beating with a feather duster, either on the legs or on the palm of the hand.
Louisa Lim NPR

Tiger Mother Amy Chua, the super-strict Chinese-American disciplinarian, became an overnight sensation in the U.S. this year when she wrote about her tough parenting style. But she looks like a pussy cat next to her mainland Chinese equivalent, "Wolf Dad" Xiao Baiyou.

Xiao is the latest media sensation in China β€” a father who not just beat his son and three daughters, but boasts about how he did it.

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Wed December 7, 2011

Clean Air A 'Luxury' In Beijing's Pollution Zone

Originally published on Wed December 7, 2011 8:37 pm

Chinese walk to work midday as heavy smog hangs over downtown Beijing.
Stephen Shaver UPI /Landov

On the way to school, my kids and I play a guessing game: How polluted is the air today? We use an app linked to the air pollution monitor at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, and we try to guess the day's exact level on the Air Quality Index, and whether the air is dangerous.

These days, chances are that it could well be. For more than half of the past 60 days, the air pollution has hit levels hazardous to human health. Experts estimate long-term exposure to such pollution could reduce life expectancy by as much as five years. But I don't tell the kids that.

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Thu December 1, 2011

In South Korea, Old Law Leads To New Crackdown

Originally published on Thu December 1, 2011 8:24 pm

Park Jong-kun's Twitter profile picture β€” which shows him against a backdrop of the North Korean flag β€” may violate South Korea's strict National Security Law. The 24-year-old South Korean is also under investigation for retweeting North Korean propaganda.
Courtesy Park Jong-kun

Park Jong-kun's Twitter profile picture shows him inspecting a bottle of Johnnie Walker whisky against a backdrop of the North Korean flag.

The 24-year-old South Korean photographer thought it would be funny, a visual parody of North Korea's news programs. But it turns out this profile picture could violate South Korea's strict six-decade-old National Security Law, which punishes those who "praise, disseminate or cooperate with anti-state groups" if such acts endanger democracy and national security.

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Tue November 15, 2011

From Crushing Poverty To South Korea's Presidency

Originally published on Wed December 28, 2011 4:29 pm

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak (shown here as a young accountant, working for Hyundai's office in Thailand in the early 1960s) overcame a poverty-stricken childhood to become a student activist, successful business executive and, ultimately, leader of his country.
Courtesy of Lee Myung-bak

When Lee Myung-bak was inaugurated as the 10th president of South Korea in February 2008, it was an astonishing outcome for a poor boy from Pohang, whose No. 1 dream had been simply to get a job.

Lee's life journey is a literal rags-to-riches story. He has made a political journey, too, from a student radical imprisoned for his activism to a conservative head of state.

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Tue November 15, 2011

South Korean President Faces Mounting Pressures

Originally published on Wed November 16, 2011 8:39 am

South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak waves as he arrives for a working dinner at the G20 summit in Cannes, southern France, Nov. 3. At home, Lee faces mounting criticism over the free trade deal with the U.S. as well as North Korea policy and the economy.
Michel Euler AP

A free trade agreement with the U.S. more than four years in the making is causing a big political headache for South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

On Tuesday, he was scheduled to visit lawmakers in Parliament to try to persuade them to ratify the deal, a step he has never taken before over a single specific issue. Lee is also under pressure in the polls, and facing criticism over his North Korea policy.

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Tue November 8, 2011
NPR Story

South Korean Opposition Delays Free Trade Vote

In South Korea, opposition politicians have delayed the ratification of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States. The U.S. Congress has ratified the pact. But in South Korea, thousands of opponents have been holding angry street rallies, and a rising mood of anti-American sentiment is helping their cause.


Sun November 6, 2011

'Cake Theory' Has Chinese Eating Up Political Debate

Originally published on Sun November 6, 2011 6:58 pm

Chinese children celebrate the Communist Party in Chongqing municipality in March. Bo Xilai, the region's party secretary who is vying for a place in the Politburo Standing Committee, espouses a government-intervention model to economics.
STR AFP/Getty Images

What goes on inside China's leadership is usually played out behind the closed oxblood doors of the compound where the top leaders live. This year, though, a political debate has sprung out in the open β€” and it has leaders and constituents considering how to move forward politically.

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Fri October 28, 2011

Chinese Activists Turn To Twitter In Rights Cases

Originally published on Fri October 28, 2011 9:21 pm

Blind activist Chen Guangcheng with his wife and son outside their home in northeast China's Shandong province in 2005. He's been held incommunicado at his home for more than a year and has become the focus of a microblog campaign by human-rights activists.

STR AFP/Getty Images

In China, microblogs are transforming the way activists draw attention to human-rights cases. Despite strict Internet controls, netizens are using Chinese Twitter as a powerful tool.

Two recent cases show just how effective microblogs can be in shaping the debate over human-rights abuses and driving citizen activism.

One case involves a chilling video that was recently released online. In it, a man lies under a green quilt, apparently naked. His left eye and right ear are covered with bandages; the skin on his feet is discolored and peeling.

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Wed October 19, 2011

At 105, Chinese Linguist Now A Government Critic

Originally published on Wed October 19, 2011 11:59 pm

Zhou Youguang, founder of the Pinyin system of romanizing the Chinese language, has published 10 books since turning 100, some reflecting his critical views of the Chinese government. Shown here in his book-lined study, the outspoken Zhou has witnessed a century of change in China.

Louisa Lim NPR

Zhou Youguang should be a Chinese hero after making what some call the world's most important linguistic innovation: He invented Pinyin, a system of romanizing Chinese characters using the Western alphabet.

But instead, this 105-year-old has become a thorn in the government's side. Zhou has published an amazing 10 books since he turned 100, some of which have been banned in China. These, along with outspoken views on the Communist Party and the need for democracy in China, have made him a "sensitive person" β€” a euphemism for a political dissident.

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Mon October 10, 2011

In China's Red-Hot Art Market, Fraud Abounds

Originally published on Mon October 10, 2011 12:22 pm

These two paintings were up for auction in Hong Kong in February. Art auctions produce eye-popping sales figures in China, though critics say there is a widespread problem with fakes.

Vincent Yu AP

As the global economy teeters, one market is still reaching stratospheric highs: Chinese art.

A Hong Kong auction of fine Chinese paintings earlier this month raised $94.8 million, three times pre-sale estimates. In fact, China is now the world's biggest art market, according to the art information agency Artprice.

Yet all is not what it seems in the murky world of Chinese art auctions, including a painting that sold last year for more than $11 million, but appears not to be what was advertised.

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Mon September 26, 2011

From Progress To Problem: China's High-Speed Trains

Originally published on Mon September 26, 2011 8:17 pm

Workers clear the wreckage of a July 23 high-speed-train collision in Wenzhou in eastern China's Zhejiang province. The crash killed 40 people and raised questions about the safety of the country's high-speed-rail network, which the Chinese government has held up as an example of its technological prowess and with which it had hoped to attract overseas buyers.
STR AFP/Getty Images

China's high-speed trains were supposed to be a gleaming testament to the country's progress and modernity. Instead, a recent crash that killed 40 people has come to symbolize much that's wrong with China's warp-speed development. In particular, a "Great Leap Forward" mentality toward development is clashing with questions of safety.

The notion that fatal accidents are the price of progress seems to have trickled down to some of the passengers on a recent high-speed train journey between Beijing and Nanjing, many of whom characterized the accident as "normal."

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Wed September 21, 2011

The Curious Case Of The Vanishing Chinese City

Originally published on Wed September 21, 2011 8:20 pm

Chinese officials announced on Aug. 22 that the large city of Chaohu in eastern China no longer existed. The move caught residents by surprise. Chaohu's museum, shown here, houses a Han dynasty tomb, and the city is known for its huge freshwater lake.
Louisa Lim NPR

Imagine a city like Los Angeles disappearing from the map completely. That's exactly what happened to Chaohu, a city in eastern China's Anhui province with a similar population β€” about 4 million. The people have remained, but the city has vanished in an administrative sleight of hand.

That was the Kafkaesque reality for Chaohu's inhabitants, who went to bed one night and woke up the morning of Aug. 22 to find out that their city no longer existed. For many, their first inkling that something had changed was from the local news.

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Thu September 15, 2011

China Tells Others To Put Financial House In Order

Originally published on Thu September 15, 2011 12:01 am

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao delivers an opening speech Wednesday at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Dalian, in northeast China. Wen said developed countries must "first put their own house in order" before they can expect China to help other struggling economies.
Andy Wong AP

As gloom mounts over Europe's debt crisis, some are looking to China to play a leading role in stabilizing the shaky world economy.

But China made clear its reluctance to take on the role of the global economic savior as it hosted the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting of the New Champions.

Polite applause greeted Premier Wen Jiabao as he stepped onto the stage Wednesday in the northeastern Chinese city Dalian, but his words depressed markets in Europe, a sign of the shift in the center of financial gravity.

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Wed September 14, 2011

Tweeting To Electoral Victory In China? Maybe Not

Labor activist Liu Ping (center) has unleashed a wave of candidates in the latest round of local elections. Here, she and two other campaigners hold a banner that declares, "Fighting fake [things] should start with elections. One person, one vote will change China."
Courtesy of Liu Ping

Liu Ping's phone is tapped. She's followed by men in black cars. Her electricity was cut off. And she was detained and held incommunicado in a hotel for four days.

Her crime? Trying to run for election to the local People's Congress in her hometown of Xinyu in China's southeastern Jiangxi province.

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Tue September 6, 2011
Performing Arts

In Search Of A Stage, Western Opera Singers Try China

Lesson number one: saying "thank you" in Chinese.

"Xie xie. Xie xie. Xie xie," repeats American soprano Maria McDaniel, as she struggles to pin down the elusive Chinese "x" sound.

"Too much lips going on!" is the verdict of her teacher, Katherine Chu, who was an assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

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Wed August 3, 2011

Plagiarism Plague Hinders China's Scientific Ambition

Helen Zhang's University of Zhejiang scientific journal was the first in China to use CrossCheck text analysis software to scan for plagiarism. She discovered that over a two year period, 31 percent of all papers showed unreasonable copying or plagiarism. The results are a symbol of the country's uphill battle to become a global leader in innovative scientific thought.
Louisa Lim NPR

Last in a three-part series

For a decade, Helen Zhang has had a dream: to run an international scientific journal that meets international standards. So she was delighted to be appointed journal director for Zhejiang University in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou.

In 2008, when her scientific publication, the Journal of Zhejiang University-Science, became the first in China to use CrossCheck text analysis software to spot plagiarism, Zhang was pleased to be a trailblazer. But when the first set of results came in, she was upset and horrified.

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Tue August 2, 2011

China's Supercomputing Goal: From 'Zero To Hero'

The $60 million Tianhe-1A supercomputer in Tianjin, China.
Louisa Lim NPR

Second in a three-part series

China basked in a moment of technological glory last November when it nudged out the U.S. as home of the world's fastest supercomputer.

The achievement was short-lived β€” after just six months, a Japanese supercomputer three times as fast supplanted the Chinese machine β€” but it generated intense national pride.

But questions remain as to whether China's much-vaunted supercomputing program will be able to live up to Beijing's high expectations.

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Mon August 1, 2011

China Aims To Renew Status As Scientific Superpower

Originally published on Wed August 3, 2011 5:32 pm

A researcher works at the Wuhan National Laboratory for Optoelectronics in central China's Hubei province on June 9. Beijing's spending on research and development has increased over the past few years in an effort to re-establish the country's scientific prowess.
AFP/Getty Images

First in a three-part series

China was probably the world's earliest technological superpower, inventing the plow, the compass, gunpowder and block printing. Then, science in the Middle Kingdom languished for centuries.

Until 1893, the Chinese didn't even have a word for "science." That was when a Japanese term originally made its way into the Chinese language, a symbol of just how much of a latecomer China was to modern science.

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Wed July 27, 2011

China Fears U.S. Debt Default, But Has Few Options

As the U.S. teeters closer to the brink of debt default, the political stalemate is being watched closely by its biggest foreign creditor, China. At last count, Beijing owned almost $1.2 trillion of U.S. Treasury debt.

Chinese officials have been quietly expressing their concern, but Beijing's options are limited.

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met senior Chinese official Dai Bingguo in Shenzhen on Monday, the mood was friendly. But behind the scenes, anxiety in China is rising as the minutes tick closer toward that Aug. 2 deadline.

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Mon July 25, 2011

China's Professional Queuers Paid To Stand Around

Queuer Li Qicai waits in line at a Shanghai hospital to collect traditional Chinese medicine for a customer. He says he does a dozen hospital jobs a week.
Louisa Lim NPR

In China, waiting in line sometimes feels like a competitive sport. The overnight queue at the launch of Apple's iPad 2 pales in comparison to the epic waits for certain over-subscribed state-run services.

Earlier this month, people waited four days and three nights to register for low-income housing in the central city of Xian, while admission to a certain Beijing kindergarten in Changping last year required a week-long, round-the-clock queue, for which people set up camp beds along the pavement.

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Wed July 20, 2011

For Chinese Moms, Birth Means 30 Days In Pajamas

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:38 am

New parents Wu Lili (left) and Mo Shiwei hold their 29-day-old baby boy. The new mom is staying at the Weige center in Beijing, which provides luxury accommodation and 24-hour nursing staff to woman who are participating in the Chinese tradition of "sitting the month."
Andrea Hsu NPR

Imagine not being allowed to go outside, have a shower or drink cold water for an entire month. It might sound like a kind of house arrest. But every year tens of millions of Chinese women submit to this willingly. This is the traditional Chinese practice of confinement during the month after childbirth, with some modern twists.

Baby Momo and his mother, Wu Lili, haven't left the three rooms of an apartment in Beijing for 29 days now. It's the last day of their traditional 30-day confinement period.

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Wed July 13, 2011

China Seeks To Carve Out A Space Of Its Own

A visitor stands near the Shenzhou 5 re-entry capsule that was used in China's first human spaceflight mission, and the space suit worn by crew member Yang Liwei at an exhibition in Beijing on July 6.
Alexander F. Yuan AP

As the U.S. winds up its space shuttle program, Beijing is shooting for the moon.

Chairman Mao once said China would never be a great nation if it couldn't even shoot a potato into space. But in 2003, it became only the third country to send a man into orbit, and since then it's launched five more astronauts β€” or "taikonauts" as they've been christened here, showing how China's even trying to leave its own mark on space vocabulary.

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Fri July 1, 2011

China's Communist Party Celebrates 90 Years

As China's Communist Party celebrates its 90th anniversary, President Hu Jintao has warned that its long rule has led to grave corruption. With 80 million members, it's now the world's largest political party. But facing rampant corruption and growing dissatisfaction, can this revolutionary party survive?

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Mon June 27, 2011

Japanese Ask: What Kind Of Changes Do We Want?

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:42 am

A Japanese man, who had believed official statements that radiation was not being released, expresses shock as a radiation monitor goes off the scale in this March 13 photo taken not far from the damaged Fukushima power plant.
Courtesy of Ryuichi Hirokawa

At a hospital in northern Japan, two high school girls drag a muddy bed outside, puffing with exertion, before throwing it onto a huge trash heap. Other kids push wheelbarrows brimming with a brown sludge made of mud and seawater.

The whole high school class is cleaning up the waterlogged Minami-hama Chuo Hospital, near the northeastern city of Iwanuma. The tsunami three months ago left 10-foot-high brown tidemarks on the hospital's walls. Nearby, cars have been thrown into a newly created lake.

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Mon June 20, 2011
China: Beyond Borders

China's Growing Military Muscle: A Looming Threat?

Stonecutters Island army base in Hong Kong opens to the public once a year as a goodwill gesture. Displays include kung fu demonstrations and shows of knife-fighting skills.
Louisa Lim NPR

This month, NPR is examining the many ways China is expanding its reach in the world β€” through investments, infrastructure, military power and more.

At the Stonecutters Island army base in Hong Kong, camouflage-clad Chinese soldiers lunge forward with fierce yells, making stabbing motions with their daggers. There's a communal shout of admiration from the crowd watching the display on the army's home territory, which is opened up once a year to the public as a goodwill gesture.

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Thu June 16, 2011

Chinese Reopen Debate Over Chairman Mao's Legacy

Originally published on Wed June 22, 2011 4:34 pm

Thousands of Chinese students holding Communist flags and a portrait of China's late leader Mao Zedong mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of China's Communist Party. Celebrations like this one come during a controversial moment, as leftist groups push back at criticism of Chairman Mao and the millions of deaths he caused.
STR AFP/Getty Images

As China prepares to mark the 90th anniversary of its Communist Party on July 1, there are signs of a new ideological struggle over former leader Mao Zedong's legacy.

The conflict is being played out online amid a backdrop of heightened nostalgia for the revolutionary days, as a young leftist takes on an elderly economist who dared to publicly criticize the founder of the People's Republic of China.

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Tue June 14, 2011

A Dispute At Sea Escalates China, Vietnam Tensions

Protesters shout anti-China slogans in front of the Chinese Embassy in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, on Sunday.
STR AFP/Getty Images

Tensions are ratcheting up in the South China Sea after a confrontation between Chinese and Vietnamese vessels.

China said Tuesday it would not resort to the use of force. And in a message aimed at the U.S., it warned other countries to stay out of the escalating dispute.

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Thu June 9, 2011

Japanese Told To Beat The Heat With Hawaiian Shirts

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:46 am

"I would wear this if my company let me," says recruitment consultant Tomoyoki Chikawa.
Louisa Lim/NPR

At Japan's Environment Ministry, the atmosphere is almost preppy; it's full of fresh-faced young people in polo shirts, Crocs and even the odd Hawaiian shirt. This is the birthplace of Super Cool Biz, an energy-saving dress code designed to help ease power shortages following Japan's nuclear crisis, which could just lead to a revolution in Japanese office wear.

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Wed June 8, 2011
Japan In Crisis

Despite Radiation, Some Japanese Villagers Stay Put

Nisaka Mieko gathers chives, which have been contaminated by radiation from the Fukushima nuclear reactor accident. She says she may lose $25,000 in crops, and hopes to plant some of the seeds next year.
Louisa Lim/NPR

Japan has doubled its estimate for the amount of radiation leaked by the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, but the process of evacuating the zone around the plant has not been smooth.

In some villages where evacuation orders have been issued, Japanese residents have stayed put.

The village of Iitate, about 20 miles from the plant, has radiation levels well above those considered safe. But it appears there are still quite a few people in the village, including one couple busy in their fields.

Salvaging Crops And Livestock

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Wed June 8, 2011
China: Beyond Borders

In Greek Port, Storm Brews Over Chinese-Run Labor

Workers for China's state-run Cosco company, at the port in Greece on Sept. 13, 2010. The company is accused by Greek unionists and by employees of importing Chinese labor practices.
Nikolas Leontopulos

This month, NPR is examining the many ways China is expanding its reach in the world β€” through investments, infrastructure, military power and more.

China has capitalized on the financial crisis to expand its influence in Europe, promising to buy Greek, Spanish and Portuguese bonds. But its most important infrastructure deal in Europe has been its investment in the Greek port of Piraeus.

Through such deals, Chinese influence is changing more than just the financial landscape in Greece β€” with ramifications for the rest of Europe.

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