Frank Langfitt

Frank Langfitt is NPR’s foreign correspondent in East Africa. Based in Nairobi, Kenya, he covers nine countries, from the jungles of eastern Congo to the streets of Mogadishu. His stories on conflict, wildlife and the continent’s growing ties with China can be heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Tell Me More and the Planet Money series.

Before moving to Africa in 2010, Langfitt was a NPR business correspondent based in Washington, D.C. In that beat he covered a wide variety of labor stories, including coal mine disasters in West Virginia, factory life in South China, the 2008 U.S. financial crisis and the bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler.

Langfitt traveled to China to cover the 2008 Summer Olympic Games for NPR. He was part of a team that 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.

Africa is Langfitt’s second foreign posting. Prior to arriving at NPR in 2004, he spent five years as a correspondent for the Baltimore Sun in Beijing. In his time overseas, he covered the Hong Kong handover, the fall of Suharto in Indonesia and reported from Taiwan, Korea and Vietnam. In the early days of the Afghan War, Langfitt reported from Pakistan and Kashmir. In China, he also traveled on horseback with Tibetan nomads and spent six months documenting the government's demolition of an old Beijing neighborhood.

Lanfitt’s start in journalism began when he worked as a stringer for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Later he spent several years in Hazard, Kentucky, covering the state's coalfields for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Before becoming a journalist, Langfitt drove a taxi in Philadelphia and dug latrines in Mexico.

Langfitt is a graduate of Princeton and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard. He now lives in a British, colonial-era bungalow in Nairobi with his wife, Julie, a veterinarian, and their two children, who think Africa is a blast.

 

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3:04am

Sun February 24, 2013
The Two-Way

In China, Not Everything Has Changed

Shen Lixiu, 58, says she had her front teeth kicked out in a re-education through labor camp. Chinese authorities say they are considering "reforms" to a system that is coming under increasing public criticism.
Frank Langfitt NPR

A lot of journalism about China focuses on the country's rapid and stunning changes, but equally telling are the things that stay the same. I did my first story on China's re-education through labor camps back in 2001.

I met a former inmate named Liu Xiaobo for lunch in Beijing. Liu, soft-spoken and thoughtful, had written an article mourning those who had died in the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. He had also called for democracy.

So, one day, police took him from his house and charged him with "slandering the Communist Party" and "disrupting social order."

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11:50am

Tue February 19, 2013
The Two-Way

A Chinese Army Outpost That's Tucked Into Modern Shanghai

Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 12:44 pm

This 12-story building houses a Chinese military unit allegedly behind dozens of cyberattacks on U.S. and other Western companies. It's in a modern, if bland, part of Shanghai.
Peter Parks AFP/Getty Images

Some people in Shanghai — especially the foreigners — think the city's new Pudong section of town is dull, without character and profoundly unfashionable.

Twenty years ago, Pudong was mostly farms and warehouses. Today, it's home to those sleek glass-and-steel skyscrapers that have come to define the city's skyline in movies like Skyfall and Mission: Impossible III.

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1:33am

Mon February 11, 2013
Asia

Auntie Anne's Pretzels In Beijing: Why The Chinese Didn't Bite

Originally published on Mon February 11, 2013 9:41 am

The China Twist by Wen-Szu Lin chronicles the author's (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to bring Auntie Anne's pretzels to China.
Courtesy

The lure of the China market is legendary. The dream: Sell something to 1.3 billion people, and you're set.

The reality is totally different.

Ask the MBAs from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School who tried to launch Auntie Anne's pretzels in China. The result is a funny, instructive and occasionally harrowing journey that is now the subject of a new book, The China Twist.

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2:45pm

Thu February 7, 2013
Asia

Move Over James Bond, China Has An Unlikely Box Office Champ

Originally published on Fri February 8, 2013 7:32 am

The surprise hit Lost in Thailand, a road comedy that cost less than $5 million to make, has become China's highest-grossing domestic film.
Enlight Pictures

Movies are big business in China, and 2012 was another record year: Theaters raked in about $2.7 billion, pushing China past Japan to become the world's second-largest market.

Those blistering sales were expected; China's ultimate box-office champ, however, was not.

Hollywood blockbusters usually do well in China. And last year, competition was stiff, including a new installment of Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible franchise, as well as Skyfall, the latest James Bond flick.

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1:02am

Wed January 30, 2013
Asia

In China, The Government Isn't The Only Spy Game In Town

Originally published on Wed January 30, 2013 8:44 am

A man sells surveillance cameras at the main electronics market in Tienhe district, Guangzhou, in southern China's Guangdong province, on Aug. 8.
EPA /Landov

The final of two reports

It all started with a local Chinese official.

He couldn't figure out how his wife, who suspected him of having an affair, knew the contents of his private conversations.

"His wife knew things that he said in his car and office, including conversations over the telephone," recalls Qi Hong, a former journalist from Shandong province in eastern China, and a friend of the official.

So Qi asked a buddy who owned bug-detecting equipment to help.

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