Listen

Rob Schmitz

Rob Schmitz is NPR's international correspondent based in Shanghai, covering the human stories of China's economic rise and increasing global influence. His reporting on China's impact beyond its borders has taken him to countries such as Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand. Inside China, he's interviewed elderly revolutionaries, young rappers, and live-streaming celebrity farmers who make up the diverse tapestry of one of the most fascinating countries on the planet.

Schmitz has won several awards for his reporting on China, including two national Edward R. Murrow Awards and an Education Writers Association Award. His work was also a finalist for the 2012 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award. His reporting in Japan — from the hardest-hit areas near the failing Fukushima nuclear power plant following the earthquake and tsunami — was included in the publication 100 Great Stories, celebrating the centennial of Columbia University's Journalism School. In 2012, Schmitz exposed the fabrications in Mike Daisey's account of Apple's supply chain on This American Life. His report was featured in the show's "Retraction" episode.

From 2010 to 2016, Schmitz was the China correspondent for Marketplace. He's also worked as a reporter for NPR Member stations KQED, KPCC, and MPR. Prior to his radio career, Schmitz lived and worked in China — first as a teacher for the Peace Corps in the 1990s, and later as a freelance print and video journalist. He speaks Mandarin and Spanish. He has a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Schmitz is the author of Street of Eternal Happiness: Big City Dreams Along a Shanghai Road (2016), a profile of individuals who live, work, and dream along a single street that runs through the heart of China's largest city.

For as long as Germany has been a unified country, since 1990, the center-left Social Democratic Party has helped govern Brandenburg, a state in the country's east that surrounds Berlin. Tina Fischer, an SPD member of Brandenburg's state parliament, is concerned about how long that will last.

Updated at 1:10 a.m. ET Monday

Hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday in a show of defiance against a government proposal that would allow people to be extradited to mainland China to face charges.

Organizers of the protest say more than 1 million turned out to the streets, or roughly one in seven Hong Kong residents, but police estimated the crowds were far smaller.

He Qiang should be manning his convenience store, but today he's collecting tiny green berries along the road and shooting them at birds with his slingshot. The 26-year-old is distracting himself from his worries. He spent all his savings — the equivalent of $35,000 — on a store that no longer has any customers.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

When it comes to Chinese authorities' eagerness to manage perceptions of the way they treat Muslim citizens in the Xinjiang region, it would be hard to beat a recent musical performance staged for an audience of foreign journalists.

On the fifth day of a government-sponsored media tour last month, at a detention facility in the far-western city of Kashgar, two dozen Uighur detainees belted out the American children's song "If You're Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands."

On Thursday morning, Sayyad Milne was washed and wrapped in white cloth. His loved ones buried him on a bluff overlooking Christchurch, New Zealand.

He was killed last Friday while he prayed with his family and friends, one of 50 people shot dead at two mosques that day.

He was 14.

Sayyad's classmates from Cashmere High School say he was good-natured, played goalie for the school soccer team and had dreams of playing internationally.

Ahmed Shalaldeh, with his 2-year-old daughter in a stroller, came to the burial to pay his respects.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Residents of Christchurch, New Zealand, are trying to recover and heal following Friday's attack on two mosques, which claimed the lives of 50 people and left more than 30 others in the hospital.

Police say the shooter — a 28-year-old Australian man who live-streamed the attack on Facebook and who is now in custody — likely acted alone. In the wake of the horrific attack, he left a community in pain.

In the fall of 2017, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV aired a series promoting China's achievements in science and technology. One episode profiled a Chinese scientist who claimed to have invented a gene-sequencing machine that outperformed those in the West.

"Somebody said we shocked the world with our machine," a man in his mid-30s says with a proud smile into the camera. "Yes, they're right! I did that — He Jiankui! That's me who did that!"

It wasn't the last time He Jiankui would shock the world.

Just days after President Trump announced a "BIG leap forward" in relations between the U.S. and China, tensions between the two economic heavyweights are escalating once more. This time, the focus of the friction is on Meng Wanzhou, scion of a Chinese telecommunications giant.

On the day he became leader, Xi Jinping gave a speech about his dream for China. "To achieve the China dream," Xi said, "we must take a Chinese path."

That path, Xi went on to say, was forged by decades of Communist rule and thousands of years of Chinese civilization. It's a path that some in Beijing believe has led China straight into a trade war with the world's largest economy.

Beijing is mounting an aggressive influence campaign targeting multiple levels of American society, according to a report published Thursday that is written by some of the top China experts in the U.S.

The working group that compiled the report includes scholars who for decades have agreed that as long as the U.S. continued to engage the People's Republic of China, the paths of both countries would eventually converge and that when they did, China's political system would become more transparent and its society more open.

When the 37-year-old Chinese woman stepped over China's border into Kazakhstan last July, she felt free.

The woman — who doesn't want NPR to use her name for fear of retaliation by Chinese authorities — says after her husband died in 2015, she was left with two children, a tiny house in the countryside of China's Xinjiang region, and little else. She despaired of her future.

Then she met the man who changed her life. Like her, he was an ethnic Kazakh. Unlike her, he was a citizen of Kazakhstan, from across the border.

When he started at Beijing's Renmin University, one of China's best schools, a freshman scanned a list of student clubs and landed on the one that made him the most excited: Young Marxists.

From a hill overlooking Canberra, Australia's landlocked capital, Clive Hamilton points to the National Carillon, a bell tower that happens to be striking noon, then to a massive glass and concrete monolith.

"That's where ASIO lives," he says, using the common shorthand for Australia's intelligence agency, the Australian Security Intelligence Organization.

He then points out Australia's federal police building and to a compound in the middle, where China built its embassy.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says he will visit Seoul "in the near future," amid an ongoing summit with South Korea's Moon Jae-in in which he also renewed pledges to shut down a primary missile launch site and a key nuclear weapons complex if the U.S. takes "corresponding" measures.

Kim's remarks about traveling to Seoul were made during a news conference in Pyongyang with the South Korean president. It would be the first-ever visit to the South Korean capital by a North Korean head of state.

Farmer Gao Yongfei is paying much closer attention to his more than 5,000 pigs than ever before.

That's because hundreds of pigs at farms nearby are dying from a mysterious virus, and Gao and his staff are now vigilantly checking his herd for symptoms of African swine fever.

"You know the pig is sick if its mouth has turned dark and it's acting crazy," says the 64-year-old owner of Yongfei Livestock Farm. "When you find a pig that has the fever, you need to slaughter it immediately."

At a downtown market in Shanghai, people are hustling to sell their goods. But at this market shaded by trees lining the pathways of People's Park, their goods are their grown children.

"Born in 1985, studied in the U.K., she's short, has a Shanghai residence permit, owns her own apartment," says Mrs. Wang, reading aloud the sign she's taped to an umbrella advertising her unmarried daughter. It's one of hundreds of umbrellas lined up along the park's walkways with similar signs.

It was on a family trip to Japan when Jui-Ting Hsi's patience with her father Kuo-Jen Hsi reached its limit.

The family, on vacation from Taiwan, had filed into a characteristically silent and crowded subway car in Tokyo when the family patriarch began speaking loudly, attracting a few glances from other passengers.

The order came in April. China's government instructed farmers in the country's northeastern breadbasket region to grow more soybeans, calling it "a political priority."

But soybean fields lay empty in the village of Sandaogou, which means "Three Ditches," in Liaoning province. It has been a dry spring.

"We've had a drought this year, so we planted soybeans late. The seedlings should be out by now. We need more rain," says farmer Liu, who only gives her surname for fear of trouble with local authorities. Soy, after all, has become "political."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

On the eve of her father's meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Ivanka Trump seemed to be calling on her inner Yoda as she tweeted:

"Those who say it can not be done, should not interrupt those doing it."

-Chinese Proverb

Neat quote. But it was the first daughter's attribution to "Chinese Proverb" that sent social media sites into overdrive in China, where people scrambled to find who, among their ancestors, actually said this.

Each afternoon at 4:30, the train from Pyongyang to Beijing passes over a rickety old bridge spanning the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and China. North Korean passengers wearing pins bearing the images of past leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il wave to hordes of Chinese tourists who come here, China's northeastern border city of Dandong, to catch a glimpse of the mysterious land across the river.

It's not easy being in charge of foreign relations of a country most of the world refuses to recognize.

Taiwan lost another ally on Thursday. The West African country Burkina Faso became the latest country to cut ties with the island. After the Dominican Republic, that's two in less than one month. And like other countries, including the United States, that for decades have broken diplomatic relations with Taiwan, they did so for one reason: to please China.

Dozens of cameras meet visitors to the Beijing headquarters of SenseTime, China's largest artificial intelligence company. One of them determines whether the door will open for you; another tracks your movements.

The one that marketing assistant Katherine Xue is gazing into, in the company's showroom, broadcasts an image of my face with white lines emanating from my eyes, nose and corners of my mouth. It estimates I am a 37-year-old male (I'm 44) with an attractiveness score of 98.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Facial recognition technology is becoming more common here in the U.S. as anyone who uses Facebook or an iPhone 10 knows. But it's far more widespread in China. We take a look in this week's All Tech Considered.

"Trade wars are good, and easy to win," President Trump tweeted earlier this month after announcing heavy tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The president's claim will soon be tested after he unleashes a raft of tariffs on about $50 billion worth of Chinese exports to the United States in retaliation for China's theft of U.S. technology and trade secrets.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It was March 2007, China's legislature was wrapping up its annual session and Premier Wen Jiabao was about to speak at the closing press conference. The economy was seeing double-digit growth, a consumer class was rising and Beijing was soon hosting its first Olympics — there was every reason for a savvy politician to boast.

But that's not what the Chinese premier did.

"There are structural problems," Wen said ominously into a microphone, "which are causing unsteady, unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable development."

In what will go down as one of the most significant legislative sessions in modern Chinese history, an eye-rolling millennial managed to steal the show from President Xi Jinping, a man who had just been given permission to rule 1.3 billion people for as long as he wants.

Pages