Steve Inskeep

There was a time in China when the solid steel-framed bicycle was the perfect representation of its pace of life. A man in a black cap pedaling down a market street, bearing fruits and vegetables in his front wire basket — that was the full expression of Chinese commerce.

But that has long since changed. Bicycles began disappearing from Beijing and other cities two decades ago, replaced by cars as China's fortunes rose. There are now 6 million cars on Beijing's streets alone; last year, some 28 million cars were sold across China.

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Our MORNING EDITION co-host Steve Inskeep has been reporting from China. And he encountered a business so old it's new.

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In China's coal country, Shanxi Province, the black stuff is a more than just a source of income — it is a source of identity. Lumps of it are for sale at the national coal museum, in elegant, satin-lined gift boxes. The rest of the coal museum is faded and out of date, much like the city of Taiyuan, where it is located, about 300 miles southwest of Beijing.

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So this is a question that people have been asking for weeks now - a very long time. We know that the nation's opioid crisis is deadly serious, but is it officially a national emergency or not?

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