China

The streets of Beijing and Shanghai feel like an entrepreneurial free-for-all, full of mom-and-pop stores and street vendors selling snacks and cheap toys.

But when you pull back the curtain, you see a different picture: a country where the government still controls huge swaths of the economy.

When you're in China, there's a good chance you're doing business with the government every time you:

  • make a call on your cellphone (the government owns the country's biggest cellphone network)

Wednesday marks the traditional Tibetan New Year, but many Tibetans won't be celebrating. They'll be mourning the almost two-dozen people who set themselves on fire in the past year as a protest against Chinese rule. Eyewitnesses say the town of Aba, site of many of the self-immolations, resembles a Chinese military camp, with soldiers and riot police every few feet. NPR's Louisa Lim traveled elsewhere on the Tibetan plateau to cover the story and sent this dispatch.

In a monastery on the Tibetan plateau, monks swathed in crimson robes chant under silk hangings, in a murky hall heavy with the smell of yak butter. Photos of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama — seen by China as a splittist — are openly displayed, as if in defiance. But Chinese security forces have tightened their grasp on this region, and monasteries appear to be emptying out, gripped by an atmosphere of fear and loss.

Third of three parts

The man who's expected to become China's president next year, Xi Jinping, is considered a princeling, the son of a prominent Chinese political figure. But the man who's likely to become premier, Li Keqiang, comes from very different stock.

The son of a minor party official, Li worked as a farmer for four years, before studying law at university.

Second of three parts

In northwestern China's Shaanxi province, a neatly manicured and landscaped memorial park the size of six soccer fields is one sign of the revolutionary lineage of Xi Jinping, the man set to become China's next leader.

Known as a Communist Party princeling, Xi is the 58-year-old son of Xi Zhongxun, a deputy prime minister and revolutionary hero who died in 2002.

The elder Xi was born in Fuping county in Shaanxi, more than 600 miles southwest of Beijing, and is considered a hometown hero.

Stroll along a street in downtown Shanghai for very long, and you're likely to run into someone wearing Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars. One recent afternoon, Xu Jing was heading back from lunch to her job at an ad company in a pair of raspberry-colored Chuck Taylors.

"They have a young image, upbeat and outdoorsy, sporty," said Xu, 27, explaining the appeal. "Young people with an artistic sense prefer Converse."

Xu was accompanied by Chen Xiaolei, a co-worker who owns three pairs of Chuck Taylor high-tops.

Word of Mouth for 01.28.12

Jan 27, 2012
Photo by urbanmkr, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Part 1: "Ready for Liftoff: 3...2...None?"

Ancient Sound, Modern Virtuoso

Jan 26, 2012

 To the average American, Chinese music might evoke a stereotype, the atonal, plucky sounds of soundtracks to martial arts films, or the ambience in Chinese restaurants. But like Chinese culture, the traditions of Chinese music reach back thousands of years and pull from myriad styles that reflect the diverse landscape of the worlds most populous nation. And weaving through much of it is the distinctive strain on the pipa, the ancient, four stringed instrument sometimes referred to as the Chinese Lute.

A Wolf in Rocket Clothing

Jan 24, 2012
Photo by, floridanaturephotography, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

The latest twist in the Obama administration’s so-called Asian pivot. The president’s chief science advisor, John Holdren, has said the US would benefit from cooperating with China on future space missions. But federal legislation now prohibits NASA from pursuing such efforts with a little known clause that’s popped up in two pieces of legislation within the past year.

Pages