Frank Langfitt - 'The Shanghai Free Taxi : Journeys with the Hustlers and Rebels of the New China'
The Chinese economic boom, with its impact on the environment, global trade, and the tech industry, has been one of the most important stories of the 21st century. Yet few Americans realize that the boom is largely over, and that the new reality in China -- unequal growth, political anxiety, and a newly empowered strongman president -- looks eerily like their own. In order to understand this new world, Frank Langfitt offered folks in Shanghai a simple deal: a conversation in exchange for a free taxi ride. Rides turned into follow-up interviews, shared meals, and even a wedding invitation. In this adventurous book, we get to know an array of quirky yet representative characters like Beer Horse, the pushy dealer who sells Langfitt his used car; Rocky, a stylishly dressed migrant worker who loves John Denver music; and Xiao Chen, who moved his family to Hawaii to escape China's oppressive education system but was unable to get out of the country himself.
Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent, covering Brexit, terrorism and other stories in Western Europe. Before coming to the United Kingdom, he spent a decade as a reporter in China, most recently as NPR's correspondent in Shanghai, where he drove a free taxi around the city for a series on a changing China as seen through the eyes of ordinary people. Langfitt got the idea for the series from his experience decades earlier driving taxis in Philadelphia during summers home from college. The NPR radio series inspired his first book, "The Shanghai Free Taxi: Journeys with the Hustlers and Rebels of the New China." In 2008, Langfitt covered the Beijing Olympics as a member of NPR's team, which won an Edward R. Murrow Award for sports reporting. From 1997 to 2002, he was the Baltimore Sun's Beijing correspondent, covering a swath of Asia from the Khyber Pass to East Timor. Langfitt is a graduate of Princeton and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard. He lives outside London with his wife, Julie, a veterinarian, and their two children. Follow him on Twitter @franklangfitt.
Langfitt will be in conversation with Connie Walker, President and General Manager of WUNC-FM and former journalist. Prior to being appointed manager, she worked for nearly 30 years in various content positions, including Program Director, News Director and Reporter at WUNC, News Director and reporter at Wisconsin Public Radio and also was a journalist at commercial radio stations in the Midwest. She is a leader in the public radio system, and joined the Board of Directors for NPR in 2012.
As any traveler knows, some of the best and most honest conversations take place during car rides. So, when a long-time NPR correspondent wanted to learn more about the real China, he started driving a cab--and discovered a country amid seismic political and economic change.