Louisa Lim

Beijing Correspondent Louisa Lim is currently attending the University of Michigan as a Knight-Wallace Fellow. She will return to her regular role in 2014.

Based in Beijing, NPR foreign correspondent Louisa Lim finds China a hugely diverse, vibrant, fascinating place. "Everywhere you look and everyone you talk to has a fascinating story," she notes, adding that she's "spoiled with choices" of stories to cover. In her reports, Lim takes "NPR listeners to places they never knew existed. I want to give them an idea of how China is changing and what that might mean for them."

Lim opened NPR's Shanghai bureau in February 2006, but she's reported for NPR from up Tibetan glaciers and down the shaft of a Shaanxi coalmine. She made a very rare reporting trip to North Korea, covered illegal abortions in Guangxi province, and worked on the major multimedia series on religion in China "New Believers: A Religious Revolution in China." Lim has been part of NPR teams who multiple awards, including the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, a Peabody and two Edward R. Murrow awards, for their coverage of the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 and the Beijing Olympics. She's been honored in the Human Rights Press Awards, as well as winning prizes for her multimedia work.

In 1995, Lim moved to Hong Kong and worked at the Eastern Express newspaper until its demise six months later and then for TVB Pearl, the local television station. Eventually Lim joined the BBC, working first for five years at the World Service in London, and then as a correspondent at the BBC in Beijing for almost three years.

Lim found her path into journalism after graduating with a degree in Modern Chinese studies from Leeds University in England. She worked as an editor, polisher, and translator at a state-run publishing company in China, a job that helped her strengthen her Chinese. Simultaneously, she began writing for a magazine and soon realized her talents fit perfectly with journalism.

NPR London correspondent Rob Gifford, who previously spent six years reporting from China for NPR, thinks that Lim is uniquely suited for his former post. "Not only does Louisa have a sharp journalistic brain," Gifford says, "but she sees stories from more than one angle, and can often open up a whole new understanding of an issue through her reporting. By listening to Louisa's reports, NPR listeners will certainly get a feel for what 21st century China is like. It is no longer a country of black and white, and the complexity is important, a complexity that you always feel in Louisa's intelligent, nuanced reporting."

Out of all of her reporting, Lim says she most enjoys covering stories that are quirky or slightly offbeat. However, she gravitates towards reporting on arts stories with a deeper significance. For example, early in her tenure at NPR, Lim highlighted a musical on stage in Seoul, South Korea, based on a North Korean prison camp. The play, and Lim's piece, highlighted the ignorance of many South Koreans of the suffering of their northern neighbors.

Married with a son and a daughter, Lim recommends any NPR listeners travelling to Shanghai stop by a branch of her husband's Yunnan restaurant, Southern Barbarian, where they can snack on deep fried bumblebees, a specialty from that part of southwest China. In Beijing, her husband owns and runs what she calls "the first and best fish and chip shop in China", Fish Nation.

In China, one struggle over censorship has been defused — for the moment, at least.

Journalists at one of the country's boldest newspapers have published a new issue after a weeklong standoff that started when censors replaced a New Year's editorial. Now the week's events are being parsed for signals about the direction of China's new Communist leadership.

Forget Fifty Shades of Grey. In China, "bureaucracy lit" is flying off bookstore shelves. With the books' stories of Machiavellian office politics, they're read avidly, both as entertainment and as how-to guides for aspiring civil servants.

So what is the secret to success in the corridors of power?

Here is a five-point guide to success, with tips gleaned from the pioneers of bureaucracy lit.

Lesson 1: Cultivate your connections.

China has indicated that it will stop handing down sentences to its controversial labor camps, which allow detention without trial for up to four years. According to Chinese media, some 160,000 prisoners were held in "re-education centers" at the end of 2008.

Critics of the system greeted the announcement — which was slim on details — with cautious optimism.

Pressure to change the system has been mounting after a number of high-profile cases, including that of Ren Jianyu, who had been a young village official.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is the end of a tumultuous year for North Koreans, who in the past year have seen the death of a longtime leader, the ascension of his young son, a failed rocket launch and most recently, the successful launch of a long-range rocket. NPR's Louisa Lim recently had a rare opportunity to see the year through North Korean eyes after she met five North Koreans in China, all of whom left the north earlier this year. We bring you that story in this encore broadcast.

(SOUNDBITE OF NORTH KOREAN BROADCAST)

While North Korea has long struggled with dire food shortages, the United Nations now assesses its food situation as being the best in many years. But NPR has had unusual access to five North Koreans in China, who paint a dramatically different, and alarming, picture.

Even as North Korea mourned its leader Kim Jong Il last December, one surprising thing was on people's minds: fish. State-run television showed people lining up in shops; the dear leader's last wish, apparently, was to provide fish to his people.

North Korea is preparing to launch a long-range rocket as it rounds off a tumultuous year marked by the sudden death of leader Kim Jong Il last December, the ascension of his 20-something son, and the humiliating failure of a rocket launch in April.

NPR recently interviewed five North Koreans in a northern Chinese city, gaining a rare glimpse of that eventful year through North Korean eyes. They were all visiting China legally, having left North Korea within the past few months.

Suffer from insomnia? The droning rhythm of a Chinese Communist official reading a work report out loud will likely do the trick.

It certainly does for many party members: Just 10 minutes into any party meeting, look down the serried ranks of the attendees, and you'll spot the dozers and snoozers, napping away, heads lolling lazily toward their neighbors.

China is inching toward anointing a new party leader later this week: Xi Jinping, the current vice-president.

In that role, he's visited forty-one countries, traveling more widely than any other Chinese leader-to-be. And in all his globetrotting, he's kept a soft spot for the small town of Muscatine, Iowa.

Xi returned to Muscatine this February, twenty-seven years after his first visit, when he was a young government official.

Second of a two-part series. Find the first part here.

A young man trudges doggedly around his village, notebook in hand, fringe flopping over his glasses. He goes from door to door, calling on the elderly.

The young man has one main question: Who died in our village during the Great Famine?

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