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Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal chats with a few Chinese kids during a special two-week broadcast from China in 2006. - 

I've been thinking about my dad a lot lately. Part of that's par for the course, I guess, when a parent passes away and you can't just pick up the phone to call them and talk things over anymore. But the real reason, I think, is that I've come back to report from China.

My dad died five years ago this past January, while we were in China for two weeks of live broadcasts. It wasn't like I could just leave and come home. I was the Chinese-speaking host, and to some degree the whole thing had been built around me. So I stayed. And I think we gave our listeners a pretty good taste of China and the Chinese economy, circa 2006.

But that was five years, one financial crisis and a worldwide recession ago.

So late last year we started thinking it was time for an update. Time to see first-hand what the global economic changes outside China, and the amazing pace of change inside, had done to what is now the world's second biggest economy. And what it's going to mean for us -- American consumers and American companies. Our reporting the next two weeks will retrace our steps from five years ago -- from Shanghai, the amazing world-class city on the coast, to Chongqing, the decidedly more urban and dirty gray concrete a thousand miles west, up the Yangtze river.

Truth is, this isn't my first trip back to China since we did the show here. We -- my wife and our three boys -- were here in the summer of 2008 for a trip with much happier family memories; bringing our adopted daughter home.

Five years. It's a long time -- a lot can happen.

Follow Kai Ryssdal at @kairyssdal