Frank Langfitt: The Shanghai Free Taxi

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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. Frank Langfitt took Town Hall’s stage to help us understand this new world. He shared stories from his time in Shanghai offering people a simple deal: a conversation in exchange for a free taxi ride.

With glimpses from his book The Shanghai Free Taxi: Journeys with the Hustlers and Rebels of the New China, Langfitt introduced us to 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. Join Langfitt for a sensitive, personal, and eye-opening look at a rapidly changing country.

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.

Recorded live in The Forum at Town Hall Seattle on June 17, 2019.

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