Anthony Kuhn

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Bejing, China, covering the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Throughout his coverage he has taken an interest in China's rich traditional culture and its impact on the current day. He has recorded the sonic calling cards of itinerant merchants in Beijing's back alleys, and the descendants of court musicians of the Tang Dynasty. He has profiled petitioners and rights lawyers struggling for justice, and educational reformers striving to change the way Chinese think.

From 2010-2013, Kuhn was NPR's Southeast Asia correspondent, based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Among other stories, he explored Borneo and Sumatra, and witnessed the fight to preserve the biodiversity of the world's oldest forests. He also followed Myanmar's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, as she rose from political prisoner to head of state.

During a previous tour in China from 2006-2010, Kuhn covered the Beijing Olympics, and the devastating Sichuan earthquake that preceded it. He looked at life in the heart of Lhasa, Tibet's capital, and the recovery of Japan's northeast coast after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Kuhn served as NPR's correspondent in London from 2004-2005, covering stories including the London subway bombings, and the marriage of the Prince of Wales to the Duchess of Cornwall.

Besides his major postings, Kuhn's journalistic horizons have been expanded by various short-term assignments. These produced stories including wartime black humor in Iraq, musical diplomacy by the New York Philharmonic in Pyongyang, North Korea, a kerfuffle over the plumbing in Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Pakistani artists' struggle with religious extremism in Lahore, and the Syrian civil war's spillover into neighboring Lebanon.

Previous to joining NPR, Kuhn wrote for the Far Eastern Economic Review and freelanced for various news outlets, including the Los Angeles Times and Newsweek. He majored in French Literature as an undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis, and later did graduate work at the Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American Studies in Nanjing.

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As Japan marks the 70th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki that ended World War II, aging A-bomb survivors are leading the opposition to what they fear is a dangerous return by Japan's government to the militarism that started the war in Asia.

Near ground zero, a bell tolled at 11:02 a.m., marking the moment that a US plutonium bomb obliterated this city and killed some 70,000 people.

With Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sitting in the audience, Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue addressed a memorial service. He said Japan should not abandon its pacifist constitution.

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China issued global arrest warrants for 100 fugitives in April. Most of them, it turns out, are believed to be corrupt officials hiding out in the U.S. or Canada.

The U.S. may not seem like an obvious destination, but Huang Feng, a criminal law expert at Beijing Normal University, says there's a clear rationale.

The fugitives pick the U.S. for its standard of living and its mature legal system. They know that the U.S. and China have no extradition treaty, and that the U.S. is wary of sending fugitives back to China, where they may be denied legal due process.

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At an elementary school outside the Chinese capital, Beijing, first-graders practice controlling soccer balls under the instruction of American coach Tom Byer.

"When I clap, everybody's going to dribble to the circle, pull it back and go to the right. Go!" he says.

Regular soccer balls would practically come up to the kids' knees, so they practice with miniature ones instead.

But Byer, a native of New York, argues that even at age 6 or 7, the children are already late to the game.

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"Ugly Americans" — tourists with appalling manners, loud voices, louder apparel and heaps of cultural insensitivity — have been an enduring stereotype for decades.

They are now facing a major challenge from their increasingly well-traveled Chinese counterparts.

Not only are the Chinese bemoaning their rudeness at home and abroad, the government has responded with new rules that took effect this week, aimed at keeping loutish travelers in check.

Go to Xi'an city in northwest China, and you can still hear amateur musical ensembles playing court music from the Tang Dynasty. One of the tunes is about flowers — tulips imported over the Silk Road from Europe some 1,300 years ago.

The Silk Road was a network of trade routes that allowed the exchange of goods and ideas between Asia and Europe, including between the Roman Empire and China's Han Dynasty, towards the end of the first century B.C.

Palm oil is in everything, from pizza dough and chocolate to laundry detergent and lipstick. Nongovernmental organizations blame it for contributing to assorted evils, from global warming to human rights abuses.

But in the past year, this complex global industry has changed, as consumers put pressure on producers to show that they're not destroying forests, killing rare animals, grabbing land or exploiting workers.

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China may have surged ahead in scientific prowess in recent decades, but it still lags behind other countries in science fiction.

Author Liu Cixin is starting to change that. The books in a popular trilogy published in China have each sold more than half a million copies. He has won nine Galaxy Awards, the Chinese equivalent of the Hugo Award. And a recent English-language translation is bringing his science-packed, futuristic vision to new audiences.

In February 2006, I traveled to the farmland of eastern Shandong province to interview blind activist Chen Guangcheng. He had been abducted from Beijing by security agents and put under house arrest for the past six months.

When I arrived, Chen was closely guarded by men armed with clubs. I couldn't get into Chen's village, so I stayed with a family of peanut farmers nearby.

Their simple farmhouse was freezing cold on that snowy day. My hosts burned peanut shells in a stove to warm the place and cook us dinner.

President Xi Jinping is sometimes described in foreign media as China's most powerful ruler since Mao Zedong. Mao may have had a cult of personality, but he didn't have his own app.

Xi does.

The app may not have in-app purchases such as provincial governorships. There are no banners or alerts about the latest officials to fall to anti-graft probes. And it certainly doesn't have any sections on factional intrigues titled "Clash of Clans." It is, however, downloadable in versions for iOS and Android phones and tablets.

China's sports bureaucracy threatened this week to standardize dancing in public squares. Government committees have for decades drafted standardized eye exercises for squinting school children, calisthenics for office workers and Tai Chi routines for retirees.

Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of modern Singapore and one of Asia's most influential politicians, has died at age 91, according to the Singapore Prime Minister's office.

During more than a half-century as Singapore's leader, he helped turn the city-state from a sleepy British colony into an affluent and efficient trading enclave, which enjoys the world's third-highest per capita GDP.

But he was also criticized for running a one-party, authoritarian regime under which critics were muzzled and political rivals hounded.

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On a hillside on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, about 50 red-haired refugees are learning how to be orangutans once again. The country's booming palm oil industry has encroached on their habitats, leaving many of them homeless and orphaned.

Two hundred million and counting: That's how many times a documentary about China's massive air pollution problem has been viewed online since the weekend. Environmentalists are hailing it as an eye-opener for Chinese citizens.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo took office a little more than 100 days ago, buoyed by sky-high expectations for political change. He's seen as very different from the strongmen and power brokers who have dominated the country for decades.

And he's certainly unconventional. He's an avid fan of heavy metal groups like Metallica and Megadeth. He's been photographed wearing black Napalm Death T-shirts and flashing the "devil's horns" hand sign.

When American comic Jesse Appell first arrived in China, his intestinal fortitude was tested by Beijing street food. And that's become material his stand-up act, which was on display recently at the Hot Cat Club, a small but popular Beijing bar and performance venue.

"I ate at restaurants that hadn't been renovated in so long they still had portraits of [Chairman] Mao up on the wall," he says.

The Mao reference seems suitably ancient to the young crowd of expats, and they burst out laughing.

A decade from now, about 2025, experts predict that China's population will peak — reaching as high as 1.4 billion — and begin to steadily decline. Some of them are predicting that a shrinking, aging population could lead to a national crisis.

One way to peer into the future is to visit a county in eastern China that pioneered population controls a decade before the rest of the country — and is now feeling their impact.

Rudong County is in Jiangsu province, on China's east coast just north of where the Yangtze River empties into the East China Sea.

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Yukiko Koyama kicked around Tokyo for a few years looking for the right job. For a while, she designed costumes for classical ballet dancers. But she longed to work in the great outdoors, and to find a job she could really sink her teeth into.

Two years ago, she found just the right thing for her: sinking a chainsaw's teeth into the pine forests of Matsumoto City in landlocked Nagano prefecture. Forests there on the central island of Honshu have been growing since the end of World War II, and many are in need of weeding.

This year, significant legal reforms have tried to make China's judiciary more accountable, and make it easier for citizens to sue the government.

But those changes may not take effect soon enough to help Chinese citizens who are punished without being told exactly what they did wrong.

One Chinese woman is suing the government for what she says is exactly this predicament.

The case will go to trial even as China is taking unprecedented steps to reform its legal system.

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The mobile messaging app WeChat has taken China by storm in the past couple years, swiftly becoming the largest standalone-messaging app, with more than 300 million active monthly users.

It has an ever-growing array of functions, from text and voice messaging to photo sharing. Perhaps most importantly, WeChat users also have the ability to form groups of up to 500 people.

Zhaxi Cairang is trying to give his son a choice of two worlds to live in: the traditional, pastoral world of Tibetan nomads, which he has inhabited for most of his 59 years, or the modern urban lifestyle that most Tibetans experience in today's China.

Zhaxi made the transition himself about 15 years ago, when he left the grasslands and moved into the city of Yushu in western China's Qinghai province. Yushu sits on the eastern end of the Tibetan plateau. More than 95 percent of its residents are ethnic Tibetans.

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