Rob Schmitz | Connecticut Public Radio
WNPR

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.

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

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Here's a question that we've been seeking to answer since we learned of the arrest of top Huawei exec Meng Wanzhou. Will her arrest throw a wrench into U.S.-China trade talks?

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

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.

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

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

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.

"I'm from a working-class family in the countryside," he says. "Very few students with my background could have made it to my school. I liked that this group pays attention to the issues of workers and farmers, so I joined."

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This question, where would you go if your home burned to the ground?

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

By the time Chinese guards began torturing Kayrat Samarkand inside a re-education camp last spring, he says his life had prepared him for this.

The ethnic Kazakh grew up in the mountains of China's rural Xinjiang region, just miles away from the border with Kazakhstan. When he was 11 years old, his parents died. A man from his village lured the young orphan to a nearby city with the promise of work and then sold him to a criminal gang of ethnic Uighurs, the predominant ethnic minority in Xinjiang, who managed a network of child thieves throughout China.

A tiny office in the heart of the Kazakh city of Almaty is filled with weary-eyed visitors clutching photos of their missing mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. Each morning they arrive, lining up behind two desks staffed with workers who enter their information into a database of the disappeared.

Kalida Akytkhan, 64, clad in a white sweater and matching headscarf, has traveled 300 miles in the hopes that people here can find her two sons.

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.

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The lawyer for Christine Blasey Ford wants something more than a she-said, he-said hearing.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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.

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

NOEL KING, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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

NOEL KING, HOST:

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/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

To another story now - the arrest of a man accused of bribing African leaders is shedding a rare light onto how China's government and its companies operate abroad. Here's Rob Schmitz of NPR's Planet Money podcast.

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

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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

NOEL KING, HOST:

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.

Pages