The Shanghai Free Taxi

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781474612333

Price: £9.99

ON SALE: 11th June 2020

Genre: Lifestyle, Sport & Leisure / Travel & Holiday / Travel Writing

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As any traveller knows, the best and most honest conversations take place during car rides. So when journalist Frank Langfitt wanted to learn more about the real China, he started driving a cab – and discovered a country amid seismic political and economic change.

The Chinese economic boom, with its impact on the environment, global trade, and the tech industry, has been one of the most important stories of the twenty-first century. Yet few realise that the boom is largely over, and that the new reality in China is unequal growth, political anxiety and a newly empowered strongman president in Xi Jinping.

In order to understand this new world, Frank Langfitt offered the citizens of Shanghai a simple deal: a conversation in exchange for a free taxi ride. Rides turned into follow-up interviews, shared meals and even a wedding invitation. In this adventurous book, we get to know an array of quirky yet representative characters like Beer Horse, the pushy dealer who sells Langfitt his used car; Rocky, a stylishly dressed migrant worker who loves John Denver music; and Xiao Chen, who moved his family to Hawaii to escape China’s oppressive education system but was unable to get out of the country himself.

Unfolding over the course of several years, The Shanghai Free Taxi is a sensitive and eye-opening book about a rapidly changing country.

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While Frank Langfitt was working as National Public Radio correspondent in Shanghai he came up with an unusual twist on the journalist's cliche of soliciting comments from taxi drivers. He decided to become the taxi driver and to offer people rides in exchange for their stories. The result, The Shanghai Free Taxi: Journeys with the Hustlers and Rebels of the New China, is an entertaining and sympathetic mosaic of characters and experiences from the highly charged and fast-moving society of contemporary China.
Isabel Hilton, NEW STATESMAN
As Washington risks a new cold war with Beijing, Langfitt excels at humanising a country increasingly presented in purely oppositional terms . . . Langfitt achieves a breadth rarely found in journalistic accounts of the country
Tom Hancock, Financial Times
A cleverly conceived, well-executed book by an engaging and empathetic storyteller. Langfitt offers up an appealing mix of humorous and poignant tales featuring individuals from different backgrounds who share just one common trait: all are struggling to find their places in and make sense of an era when their city, their country, and the world at large have been undergoing complex and often confounding transformations
Jeffrey Wasserstrom, co-author of <i>China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know</i>
Frank Langfitt achieved what generations of visitors to China only dreamed of doing: He devised an ingenious way to burrow into everyday life, and he came back with stories that are humane, candid, fast-paced and compulsively readable. The Shanghai Free Taxi gives you the marrow of today's China in all its kindnesses and cruelties and wonders and absurdities
Evan Osnos, author of <i>Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China</i>
[Langfitt] does a great job of not romanticising the West ... His comparisons of old and new China are informative and accurate ... a comprehensive narrative of New China
Susan Blumberg-Kason, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal
By creating a free taxi and offering free rides, veteran NPR reporter Frank Langfitt takes us on a journey across China and into the soul of today's Chinese civilization. We learn how a wide cross section of Chinese people live and think as the author provides an up-close view of their fears and aspirations and the forces that shape their lives in ways good and bad. I have lived in China for thirty years, and this book gave me new insights and brought me to places I have never been. Truly unique and compelling
James L. McGregor, chairman of APCO Worldwide's greater China region and author of <i>One Billion Customers</i>
The Shanghai Free Taxi is a delightful, poignant and revealing book. In his role as impromptu, volunteer chauffeur in Shanghai, Frank Langfitt got to see inside the lives of Chinese families of all backgrounds and social classes, and from many parts of the country. The result is a vivid look at the contradictory dreams, achievements, heartbreaks and possibilities of modern China
James Fallows, author of <i>Our Towns</i> and <i>China Airborne</i>
Frank Langfitt writes with the streetwise eye of a cabbie and the analytical mind of a foreign correspondent. This is today's China as it gossips, gripes and moans; strives, struggles and overcomes
Paul French, author of <i>City of Devils</i> and <i>Midnight in Peking</i>
Driving in China is hard. Getting average Chinese people to open up about their feelings and opinions is even harder. In The Shanghai Free Taxi Frank Langfitt does both at the same time, driving a cab in the flagship city of a country in transition. Challenging to report but easy to read, this book reveals China's true transition: a profound search for identity in the world at large
Peter Hessler, author of <i>Country Driving: A Chinese Road Trip</i>
The Shanghai Free Taxi presents a unique, kaleidoscopic view of Chinese society. Characters in this book open up, talking freely and truthfully in a way unimaginable elsewhere under the oppressive regime. It is a must read for anyone trying to gain rare and insightful glimpses into that complicated country
Qiu Xiaolong, author of the Inspector Chen novels including <i>Shanghai Redemption</i>
Enlightening ... [an] admirably sincere attempt to understand a nation and its people
Duncan Hewitt, TLS
Frank Langfitt's stint as a taxi driver collecting tales of modern China has created a rollicking, delightful read. Enchanting
Mei Fong, author of <i>One Child</i>