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. China—America's most important competitor—is at a turning point. With economic growth slowing, Chinese people face inequality and uncertainty as their leaders tighten control at home and project power abroad.

In his adventurous book The Shanghai Free Taxi, Frank Langfitt provides details about his free taxi service and how he got to know a wide range of colorful, compelling characters representative of the new China. They include folks such as Beer, a slippery salesman who tries to sell Langfitt a used car; Rocky, a farm boy turned Shanghai lawyer; and Chen, who runs an underground Christian church and moves his family to America in search of a better, freer life.

Langfitt is currently NPR's London correspondent, covering the UK, Ireland and Europe. He previously spent five years covering China for NPR. In China, he reported on the government'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 coming to NPR, Langfitt spent five years as a correspondent in Beijing for The Baltimore Sun, covering a swath of Asia, from East Timor to the Khyber Pass. He is a graduate of Princeton and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard.

Come for a fascinating conversation that will help make sense of the world's other superpower at this extraordinary moment in history.

Image - Langfitt
Frank Langfitt
NPR Correspondent; Author, The Shanghai Free Taxi
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In Conversation with Margaret Conley
Executive Director, Asia Society of Northern California