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.

China is the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter and drives climate change more than any other country. As the world warms and seas rise, researchers say it stands to lose more heavily populated coastline as well.

Most Chinese, though, don't seem to see climate change as a current threat.

"I'm not really concerned because I think the distant future has little to do with me, because I'll already be dead," said a woman named Yu, who didn't want to give her full name in case government officials didn't like her comments.

Grave robbers in central China pilfered a cemetery in Henan province last week, stole ashes from several grave sites and held them hostage. The robbers ripped open tombs at the Hongshan Cemetery in Xinyan City, according to the news website, where they spirited away ash-filled urns and left notes with phone numbers.

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In a landmark moment, the presidents of China and Taiwan held an 80-second handshake ahead of a historic meeting in Singapore on Saturday.

The handshake marked the first time that the two sides of the Chinese Civil War have come together since the Communists won the war in 1949, forcing the losing Nationalists to begin running their government from Taipei.

"History has left us with many problems which we need to deal with practically," Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said following the hour-long meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

When you drive the new expressway to the airport in the Chinese city of Luliang, you are as likely to come across a stray dog as another vehicle. When I recently drove it, a farmer was riding in a three-wheel flatbed truck and heading in the wrong direction. But it didn't matter. There was no oncoming traffic.

Traveling in China used to be fun, sometimes even relaxing. As recently as the late 1990s, you could go to a Tibetan monastery out west that your Chinese friends had never heard of, hang out with nomads and chat with monks. Crowds were rare.

Those days are mostly over. China's rapid economic rise means many people now have the money to travel. And that's a good thing. Chinese should get to know their country better.

The problem: There are just too many people.

A $5 billion business and financial district for the coal city of Luliang was scheduled to open next year. But today, the area, which was to house at least 300,000 people, remains mostly grass and cornfields. A few workers are trying to finish what would have been the district's main boulevard — which is now a road to nowhere.

What went wrong?

The mayor who pushed for this new district was fired for corruption — a common fate in Luliang — and the government ran out of money.

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After a huge drop in the past couple of weeks, Shanghai stocks rose Friday for the second day in a row.

For many, that's a relief. But China's economy has a long way to go. In fact, it's in the midst of wrenching transition from an economy based on investment and manufacturing to a higher-income one built on services and consumer spending.

The stakes are high — not just for China, but for the rest of the world.

Economic growth is slowing in China in a way it hasn't in a long time.

China's government has had a rough summer. Officials have tried and failed to stop the country's stock markets from nosediving. Both the Shenzhen and Shanghai exchanges closed down again today.

Earlier this month, the government announced a surprise devaluation that rattled global markets.

Economists see these as odd, unforced errors by a government that built its reputation on shrewd economic management.