5:31:24 The Shanghai Free Taxi, a book review

Frank Langfitt's The Shanghai Free Taxi explores one journalist's strategy for finding out what common people were thinking in China circa 2011-2016, when he worked as correspondent for NPR.

book cover

To talk to ordinary Chinese, to have them reveal their inner lives, he calls up earlier experience as a taxi driver and with magnetic signs on his Toyota Camry offers rides plus conversation for free. This was the only way foreigner Langfitt could drive a taxi in Shanghai. The young professional Chinese he meets know free to be a good price and once inside the confines of a car will often let down their guard and talk freely.

This was Langfitt's second posting in China. From 1997 to 2002, he was Beijing correspondent for the Baltimore Sun. Given that China's robust economy continued between his two postings, Langfitt can't help but notice that though poverty is a thing of the past, the high cost of living has become the present reality for many.

Langfitt's free taxi fares are anything but one-way or one-offs. They become relationships, continuing stories. He gives a psychologist rides around Shanghai to her appointments with clients; he gives a young lawyer a ride to the latter's family in rural China for a New Year's reunion. He even meets up with his dozen plus characters and their stories who have left for such far-flung places as Chicago (for graduate study), Southern California (for religious reasons), or Paris (for MBA study).

A key angle to Langfitt "customer" stories is, How do these individuals balance material comforts from a vibrant economy with costs of a government that can be intrusive?

A few don't and must leave China for elsewhere. Certainly the couple who went to California for religious reasons. Still investment banker Ashley who left China only to land in Trump's America decides to return to China and her family roots.

Following up with the many taxi passengers, Langfitt assembles a composite of modern China and how they accept their lives in a seemingly rigid, Confucian social order. As Ashley says, democracy is anything but perfect when voters decide complex questions simply beyond their understanding. Langfitt agrees and cites the example of "trust the people's voice" when British Prime Minister David Cameron put the Brexit question to a simple up or down vote, placing too much faith in the votes of the blind and the ignorant.

Read The Shanghai Free Taxi for fresh insights into what ordinary Chinese are thinking amid their new-found and well-earned prosperity.

The Shanghai Free Taxi by Frank Langfitt, Public Affairs, New York. 2019. 302 pp. ISBN 978-1-61039-814-5.

Image credit: npr.org


Read more ...

(click to enlarge image)

Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:

.mobi (Kindle)
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)


more posts

4:30:24 Novelist As a Vocation, a book review
3:23:24 "too many screens"
2:15:24 Einstein to Li'l Laser
1:18:24 Icebound
12:4:23 More Refrigerator Hell
11:28:23 Neighborhood Noise
10:18:23 Why Has No Chinese Economist Won the Nobel?
9:16:23 Christian Metaphysics and Neoplatonism, a book review
8:25:23 Heat Wave
7:27:23 Mexican Food in Portland?
6:30:23 The 1863 Diet, a book review
5:28:23 I'm Really Done with Old School Shaving
4:23:23 My New Binoculars
3:10:23 A Whole Life, a book review
1:16:23 The Empty Mirror, a book review
12:11:22 Feeding Ducks at Laurelhurst Park
11:4:22 YouTube Instructional Videos
10:22:22 The Legacy of the Snout House
9:3:22 Nomad Century, a book review
8:27:22 Refrigerator Hell
8:5:22 The Winter War of 1939 and Today
6:26:22 Medical Doctors
5:31:22 Good-bye to an Old House
4:30:22 Grey Bees, a book review
3:20:22 Save or Discard/Donate?
2:10:22 Learning a Foreign Language
1:24:22 Rereading E. F. Schumacher
12:19:21 Extreme Water Conservation Simplified
11:21:21 The Autobiography of Malcolm X, a book review
10:20:21 Wilmer Mills, Poet
10:4:21 Marshall Sahlins' "The Original Affluent Society," an essay
8:26:21 Whatever Happened to Reusable Bags?!
8:23:21 No Longer Human, a book review
7:16:21 This Is the Income Inequality Gap
7:9:21 The AGPTEK A02(S) music player, a product review
6:24:21 Filling In the Still Pond
5:29:21 Blue Highways: A Journey into America, a book review
5:4:21 Martin Eden, a book review
4:4:21 My Second ThinkPad
3:4:21 My Witless Online Buy
2:19:21 This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends, a book review
2:8:21 The Chinese Finger Trap as Trope for the Web
1:17:21 ROBOCALL, ROBOKILL
Christmas Day 12:25:20 Talkin' Bicycles
12:02:20 Before the coffee gets cold, a book review
11:27:20 Abe, a book review
11:1:20 Viz in Decline
10:29:20 A Watch Cap
10:3:20 John Dos Passos's U.S.A. Trilogy, a book review
9:19:20 milkboneboxershorts@yahoogle
Labor Day 9:7:20 The Essential Essential Workers
7:19:20 A Russian Journal, a book review
6:19:20 DUI
5:16:20 Renan's Life of Jesus, a book review
4:25:20 Leatherman Micra, a tool review
3:24:20 Survival Tool, Then & Now
3:2:20 The Plague, a book review
2:28:20 Next Car?
12:22:20 Amazon Effects
12:18:19 Modern Times, Today
11:25:19 Who Killed Civil Society?, a book review
10:25:19 Working at the Food Pantry
9:30:19 Remembering Hal Blaine (1929--2019)
8:24:19 Losing Earth, a book review,
8:18:19 Library-Genesis & Parasitic Paywalls
7:25:19 Disposal Problems
5:18:19 My New Summer Sandals
4:22:19 The 3-Speeder
3:19:19 My Jewish Bloodline
3:3:19 Does Portland Have Tenements in Its Future?
2:3:19 Garage & Garbage
1:26:19 Genial Coarseness
1:7:19 One Writer's Tools
12:20:18 Seven Ways of Looking at Pointless Suffering, a book review
12:16:18 Reading Plan 2018, a Resolution Kept
11:14:18 "A House Divided," an essay
10:27:18 How to Act Rich
9:1:18 The Self-Service Library in Bigfoot Country
8:9:18 Bicycling in the Path of Self-Righteousness
7:28:18 Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America, a DVD review
6:23:18 Why Honor Matters, a book review
5:26:18 Men Without Women, a book review
5:23:18 Haircuts
4:22:18 Why I Shred Junk Mail
4:4:18 Keeping My New Year Resolution
3:24:18 Extreme Water Conservation: Payoff
2:14:18 My Shaving Kit Comes Full Circle
1:23:18 Extreme Water Conservation
12:23:17 Lenin: The Man, The Dictator, and the Master of Terror, a book review
11:27:17 Mapping the Ether, or the Topography
of a Webpage in Real Time

11:21:17 To Save, or Spend, Change
11:13:17 uzbl & "Faster Dial-Up" Redux
10:29:17 The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement
Became the World's Largest Religion
, a book review

10:23:17 Running a Laptop off a $1 Thumbdrive
10:14:17 In Pursuit of the $1 Thumbdrive
10:5:17 Zabriskie Point
9:30:17 19th Century-Style Photographic Prints
7:2:17 DIY Prescription Eyeglasses
6:22:17 Free Geek: "helping the needy get nerdy"
5:27:17 Reading My Great Grandfather's 1868 Diary
4:27:17 The Bickford Fuse, a book review
4:14:17 Why I, Too, Will Not Fly United Airlines Again, Ever.
3:21:17 The Revelation to John
3:4:17 FUD
1:29:17 A Platonic Slide Into Tyranny
12:29:16 We Wanted Workers, a book review
12:10:16 Popular Mechanics Magazine, May 1933, a review
11:27:16 Deoderant Confession
11:10:16 Grisi Neutral [Neutro] Soap
10:24:16 Finding Solace in Camus
9:24:16 A 35-Year-Old Calculator
8:27:16 My Sanctuary
7:27:16 And the Weak Suffer What They Must?, a book review
7:7:16 Yogurt
6:12:16 The Squinty Prius
5:26:16 The Disconnect of Vote-by-Mail
5:17:16 The Still Pond
5:12:16 Marina and Lee, a book review
4:28:16 A Little Catechism Goes a Long Way
4:15:16 Au Revoir, Cloudburst Recycling
3:11:16 Screen Magnetism
2:4:16 We've Got Algorithms
1:18:16 Forgiving Portland's City Bus Line
12:28:15 The Gluten Lie, a book review
12:12:15 Ten Things I Buy at Dollar Tree
12:11:15 Bio-slime
12:3:15 My Logging Habit
11:11:15 The Internet Is Not the Answer, a book review
10:21:15 How I Write When I Write
10:8:15 Dentists
9:17:15 The Other Portland
8:20:15 Gods Without Men, a book review
8:19:15 Oregon's Most Obscure Traffic Law
7:31:15 A Small Death
7:23:15 China Shakes the World, a book review
7:16:15 Out Damn Spot!
5:31:15 My New Library Card
5:21:15 Let Me Be Frank With You, a book review
5:08:15 Portland's Rabbit Hutches
4:21:15 The Sea Lions at Astoria
3:26:15 Sacrificing for a Lower Water Bill
3:10:15 The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, a Book Review
2:5:15 Pinhead Books aka e-books
1:15:15 Good Riddance to Old-School Shaving!
12:20:14 Three Whys I Quit Reading a Book
12.12.14 the life-changing magic of tidying up, a book review
11.12.14 Oil Changes
10.29:14 Grapefruit
10.17:14 Doomsday Preppers, a TV series review
9.30:14 The Trigger, a book review
9:10:14 Clipboard People
8:23:14 Ukraine Diaries, a book review
8:21:14 My Home Darkroom on a Shoestring
7:29:14 Right Speech
6:28:14 Pacific Power's Wily Ways
6:20:14 My New Clarks Sandals
5:31:14 Portland's Water Woes, Again
5:10:14 Faster Dial-Up
4:11:14 Update on Stockpiling Light Bulbs
4:10:14 The Next 100 Years, a book review
3:15:14 A Cruel and Shocking Act, a book review
3:8:14 Ukraine: Another Revolution Gone Awry
2:9:14 The Flight (and Fight) of the Hummingbird
1:25:14 My Frugal Byways
1:20:14 Walden on Wheels, a book review
1:2:14 Growing Up Amish: A Memoir, a book review
12:27:13 Micro-Apartments
11:28:13 The Moneyless Man, a book review
11:23:13 The Lost Art of Walking, a book review
11:10:13 The Cultural Revolution Cookbook, a book review
10:23:13 The Biker Angel
10:11:13 No Self-Serve Gas in Oregon
9:28:13 A Street Cat Named Bob, a book review
9:23:13 The Life & Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin, a book review
9:18:13 Autumn Leaves
8:19:13 The Worst Car Driver & Why
8:12:13 The Gardener from Ochakov, a book review
7:25:13 Le Havre by Kaurismaki
7:20:13 This Ain't California
6:27:13 The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking, a book review
5:29:13 My Linux (Mis)Adventures
5:25:13 Southern Cross the Dog, a book review
5:5:13 Russian Tumbleweed
4:16:13 "The Machine Stops" by E. M. Forster
3:26:13 Camera-rama
3:25:13 Moore's Law
3:13:13 Grocery Shopping 
2:28:13 Razor Blade in Moonlight
1:27:13 Made in Russia: Unsung Icons of Soviet Design, a book review
1:6:13 Alleys
12:9:12 White Bread, a book review
12:4:12 Update on Old-School Shaving
11:12:12 Ten Great Buys at Dollar Tree
11:6:12 My New Russian Camera
10:29:12 Leaf Day
10:2:12 The Russian Navy in New York?
9:21:12 The Righteous Mind, a book review
9:14:12 Revolution, 1989, a book review
8:23:12 Train Whistles in the Night
8:2:12 Why I've Stockpiled Light Bulbs
7:22:12 Old-School Shaving
7:16:12 Злектроника МК-52, computer de minimus
7:4:12 Ivan's Childhood by Tarkovsky
6:21:12 The Unabomber, a modern Thoreau?
6:12:12 Do the gods exist?
6:7:12 My "Retail Therapy"
5:28:12 On Taxes, We Should Go Green
5:17:12 Portland's Trash
5:6:12 The Toaster Project, a book review
4:24:12 No Seconds
4:12:12 Portland's Runaway Utility Bill
4:8:12 The Repossession, a book review
3:30:12 How I Got Published in Mississippi Review
3:18:12 Rothko
3:9:12 The End of Money, a book review
3:1:12 gutenberg.org
2:18:12 Beauty Plus Pity, a book review
2:5:12 Kirk's Castile Soap
1:29:12 Confessions of a Fallen Standard-Bearer, a book review
1:22:12 Thirst, a book review
1:17:12 My IBM ThinkPad 1999-2012
1:11:12 String Beans
12:22:11 Spiritual TMJ
12:16:11 1Q84, a book review
12:11:11 How Portland Became Portlandia
12:1:11 The Fixie
11:20:11 Camus' Insight
11:13:11 Old & Worthy
11:7:11 Life Is Tragic
10:31:11 A Matter of Death and Life, a book review
10:25:11 Dead Letter, Email Fatigue
10:18:11 Reinventing Collapse, a book review
10:11:11 Rereading Pirsig
10:1:11 The Sisters Brothers, a book review
9:26:11 The Great Stagnation, a book review
9:16:11 Coffee, The Affordable Luxury
9:12:11 The Genius of Value
9:5:11 Death and the Penguin, a book review