American Reporter Becomes Taxi Driver in Shanghai, What Did He Find?

Would you get into a taxi that said free rides? (Image: SmokingPermitted - "Cosa sono? La bambina dei no" via Compfight cc)
Would you get into a taxi that said free rides? (Image: SmokingPermitted - "Cosa sono? La bambina dei no" via Compfight cc)

It turns out that mainland Chinese don’t trust each other that much. In fact, they’re much more likely to trust an American than fellow Chinese.

NPR Reporter Frank Langfitt found this out first hand when he went undercover as a taxi driver in Shanghai. Langfitt offered free rides in exchange for speaking with him about life in one of China’s biggest cities. What he found out was pretty astonishing.

Langfitt drove around Shanghai picking up pretty much anybody that would get into his cab. Some were hesitant to get into his cab at first. Two female factory workers were initially reluctant to get in with him but after they realized he was American they became more trusting.

Langfitt noted that many Chinese find each other untrustworthy these days and even if someone was on the street hurt no one would stop and help them. That’s because dishonesty in China is at a high level and there are scams where people pretend to be hurt then extort those who try and stop to help them.

Langfitt once picked up a 38-year-old pajama salesmen named Chen who explained why Americans were trusted more than Chinese.

“From a young age, Americans are taught good values. Because of their education, Americans trust strangers more. They’re more straightforward than Chinese.”

In addition Chen also asked him:

“Are you  a Christian?”

Langfitt is Christian and over the next few months became friends with Chen and later went with Chen to an apartment where an underground Bible study was taking place. Religion and spirituality are either strictly controlled or banned outright in communist China, and many faiths are severely persecuted, including underground Christian groups.

Over time, Langfitt learned that Chen had a wife and a daughter who lived in Los Angeles. The couple went to Los Angeles last year to have a second child because they couldn’t afford the fine for violating China’s one child policy.

Chen’s family then stayed in L.A for the education of their 14-year-old daughter. Chen told Langfitt that his daughter was miserable in China’s high pressure school system and that his daughter was much happier living in the United States.

One of the characteristics of Chinese people today is anxiety. Surveys have shown that most wealthy millionaires want to emigrate out of China to Canada, the U.S, or the U.K. to get cleaner air, and better education for their children. Until Langfitt met Chen, who only makes $10,000 a year, he didn’t realize that this anxiety and desire to leave extended to all socioeconomic levels in China.

Even with Shanghai’s reported growth and alleged prosperity everyone from a millionaire to a pajama salesmen wants to escape the communist party’s tight grip.


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