I like books by journalists who use their reporting as a springboard to talk about the places and problems they covered. I’ve read dozens of such books on China since the death of Mao Zedong. None is more insightful than Shanghai Free Taxi.
Like many of these books, Langfitt has a hook. In order to get to know “real Shanghainese” better, he drove a free taxi while serving as NPR’s correspondent there earlier in this decade. Through this other gig and the rest of his reporting, Langfitt got amazing insights into life in this boom city especially among migrants just as Xi Jinping was consolidating his power and limiting individual freedoms. In these pages, you’ll meet lots of men and women who struggled to make it, including a Chinese yuppie, a barber, a Christian, some journalists, and even a used car salesman.
In the process, you’ll see both sides of a China in flux and the life choices people have to make in order to survive, let alone thrive, in one of the world’s biggest, booming cities.