Rob Schmitz

Rob Schmitz is the Shanghai Correspondent for NPR.

From 2010 to 2016, Schmitz was the China Correspondent for the public radio business program Marketplace. 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, Rob 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, the most downloaded episode in the program's 16-year history.

Prior to his radio career, Schmitz lived and worked in China – first as a teacher for the Peace Corps in the 1990s, 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's latest book is Street of Eternal Happiness: Big City Dreams Along a Shanghai Road (2016).

After winning an election conducted amongst Hong Kong's biggest Beijing supporters, 59-year-old former civil servant Carrie Lam said her priority would be to "heal the divide" in Hong Kong society, vowing to form a government based on talent, not connections.

After more than two years of protests over the city's political future, this seemed to be what her city needed to hear, and saying the right thing at the right time was precisely what catapulted Lam to this position in the first place.

When China took control of Hong Kong from Great Britain back in 1997, voting rights for all was one of the promises it made. These were rights Britain never gave the island's citizens during its 156-year rule.

This Sunday's election in Hong Kong was expected to be the first in which each and every resident would be allowed to vote for the city's top leader, the chief executive. But it won't be the case. Many city residents are calling Sunday "Selection Day," since they won't be allowed to vote directly.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The streets of Dalianhe, in China's frigid northeast province of Heilongjiang, are lined with black snow. The town is home to one of China's largest open-pit coal mines. Workers drive through its front gate into a massive gorge with cliffs the color of ink — a canyon of coal. Thousands of feet below, it's silent but for the drip of melting snow.

North Korea again tested ballistic missiles this week, firing four of them into the waters near Japan. Just days later, the U.S. military announced that part of a controversial missile defense system arrived at Osan Air Base in South Korea for deployment as early as April.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Sitting inside a glass-encased cockpit, two men fiddle with joysticks controlling giant claws outside. They look like they're playing at a vending machine at a mall, where you try to grasp a stuffed animal. But these are engineers. The claws they're manipulating are as big as houses, and they're sifting through hundreds of tons of garbage thrown away by the world's largest consumer class.

At any other time of the year, Shengping Lane bustles with life. But the Lunar New Year holiday is near, half the city has left for their hometowns and Shanghai has returned to the Shanghainese.

The only vendor left in the alley sells calendars, but soon he'll pack up, too. It's the time of year when Shengping Lane lives up to its name: 升平 or "Rising Peace."

Two days before the election, Donald Trump stood before a large crowd in Sioux City, Iowa, and called onstage the longest-serving governor in U.S. history.

"I think there's nobody knows more about trade than him," Trump said of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. "Boy, you would be our prime candidate to take care of China."

In an article last month on state goals for 2017, China's Xinhua news agency reported, "China has lifted 700 million people out of poverty through more than 30 years of reform and opening-up," while aiming to "lift" 10 million more in the coming year.

The Shanghai city government thinks it can make citizens more honest through a smartphone app. The city released the app, Honest Shanghai, in November during "honesty week," a celebration of virtuous behavior throughout the city.

Here's how the app works: You sign up using your national ID number. The app uses facial recognition software to locate troves of your personal data collected by the government, and 24 hours later, you're given one of three "public credit" scores — very good, good, or bad.

It's not yet Oscar season, but buzz is building about the performance of a Chinese candidate.

There are around 12 million Catholics in China, less than 1 percent of China's population. It's a number that's felt at a weekday morning mass inside Shanghai's St. Peter's Church, where a small percentage of pew space is occupied by a few, mostly elderly loyal parishioners.

There's a lot of time for contemplation when you're milking cows in Mongolia. 90-year-old Lkhagvajav Bish has milked them for decades. She's a nomadic herder, and she follows them in their endless search for grass.

Today, the ger, or tent, she and her son live in is pitched in a valley surrounded by brown hills whose tops are white with frost, and as her hands squeeze the last milk from one of her herd, Bish reminisces about a time when this valley looked completely different.

Inside Mongolia's largest open-air market in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, it doesn't feel like the economy is on the brink of collapse. Alleyways are packed with people selling carpets, fabric, clothes and nearly anything else you could think of.

But vendors here have had a front-row seat to an economy that has quickly gone from the world's fastest growing to one of the slowest. Everyone here seems to have a riches-to-rags story.

On a hillside overlooking the steppes of northeastern Mongolia, an entire family shovels jet-black chunks of coal into a truck. Every half-hour or so, they fire up a machine that steadily pulls a steel cable attached to what looks like a roller-coaster car emerging from a hole in the ground. It takes five minutes before it arrives at the surface, full of more coal, extracted by cousins working half-a-mile beneath the earth.

For some rural Mongolians, risking their lives in crude, makeshift mines is the only way to survive.

At a Florida campaign stop in August, presidential candidate Donald Trump made a promise for his first day in office: "I'm going to instruct my treasury secretary to label China a currency manipulator! The greatest in the world!"

Trump told supporters that China keeps its currency artificially low to flood the U.S. with cheap imports, putting Americans out of work.

But is it true?

The response of China's state-controlled media to Donald Trump's victory seemed almost gleeful. Xinhua wrote that the 2016 presidential election "sent a clear signal that the U.S. political system is faltering," and regular CCTV guest Zhang Shaozhang gushed "Trump wins, as expected!" on his Weibo page.

After a month of student-led democracy protests in central Hong Kong in 2014, there was a moment when the students and Hong Kong's government seemed to be on the verge of actually agreeing on something.

"At one important juncture, the student leaders asked me to talk to senior [Hong Kong] government officials to explore the possibilities of conducting a debate," says Hong Kong University Political Science professor Joseph Chan.

With Chan's coaxing, the Hong Kong government, which was pro-China, agreed.

Nathan Law may still be taking college coursework, but he's already scored a good job. When I ask how much he'll make now that the 23-year-old has become Hong Kong's youngest legislator in city history, he quietly does the calculation in his head.

"It's around 12,000 U.S. dollars a month," he finally says, "but I'm going to donate much of that to the social movement."

When Alibaba founder Jack Ma bought the South China Morning Post in December of 2015, he held a meeting with his new employees. The billionaire tech tycoon from mainland China told reporters he wanted them to cover China more deeply, more broadly and more correctly.

"The more I know about the outside understanding of China," Ma said in English to his newly-acquired editorial staff, "the more I feel that most of the things are not correct."

He railed against "biased" foreign news coverage of China and said he wanted the paper to rise above the rest.