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Musharraf and Pakistan; Understanding China; Remembering Solzhenitsyn

Aired August 10, 2008 - 13:00   ET


FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE: Welcome to the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE, to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria, and today I'm having some fascinating conversations about what's going on around the world.

IMRAN KHAN: Musharraf's policies made the rich richer and impoverished the poor. So, the anti-Musharraf feeling went against the U.S. Now, the U.S. should learn that they must back democratic forces, and not actually prop up a military dictator.

ORVILLE SCHELL: Listen, you cannot understand China in any way, except as a whole series of contradictions, where opposite things are true at the same time.


ZAKARIA: Pakistan is a country known for its volatile politics, but this week it seems especially chaotic. Today, I've invited someone with a unique perspective on that country to discuss the latest developments.

If you imagine Michael Jordan and Mick Jagger rolled into one, you might have an idea of how big a figure Imran Khan is in Pakistan.

First, there is his legendary status as a cricket player. He led Pakistan to victory in the World Cup, which is the World Series of cricket. He was a prominent figure on the London social scene while he was married to the daughter of European billionaire, Sir James Goldsmith.

Now Khan is a politician in Pakistan. He has founded his own political party and served for five years in parliament. He's in a special position to help us understand the political chaos going on in Pakistan right now.

Imran, first question. The tide of anti-Americanism in most countries in the world seems to be receding. Except in Pakistan, there still seems to be a fair amount of anti-Americanism.

Why is that? What could be done about it?

IMRAN KHAN, PAKISTANI CRICKETER AND POLITICIAN: Well, the main reason was that the U.S., the Bush administration supported Musharraf. So, as Musharraf got unpopular, and in the last two years his popularity really went down. He became disliked in Pakistan, and the U.S. administration kept backing Musharraf, as opposed to the 160 million people of Pakistan. Right up to the elections, they kept backing him.

When the people stood behind the chief justice -- when Musharraf sacked the chief justice, the people stood behind the chief justice. And all opinion polls said over 84 percent of the people were standing with the chief justice, and 84 percent wanted Musharraf out.

The U.S. administration stood with Musharraf. So, the hatred against Musharraf then went towards hatred towards the U.S.

What they should have done was to stand with the people, with the democratic forces rather than with a military dictator.

ZAKARIA: But what do we do now?

KHAN: I think the best way is, first of all, that they should back the people, because remember, the U.S....

ZAKARIA: But how do you do that now?

KHAN: Remember, Fareed, the U.S. gave $10 billion of aid to Pakistan. I didn't even -- I was a member of parliament. I found out through the "New York Times" that we had got $10 billion aid.

So, the people never benefited from it. All they saw were the adverse effects of the war on terror, where there 65 suicide bombings in Pakistan, our own soldiers killing our own people, people killing those soldiers, civilians dying, 100,000 refugees out of Waziristan.

So, naturally, the people thought that, what is in -- why are we fighting someone else's war?

What should have happened was that, if there was a proper government in Pakistan, they would have dealt with this war on terror differently. The U.S. aid should have gone to the people, which -- Joe Biden has brought this resolution. Now they intend to use the aid to go towards the people, in other words, the social development.

But all this aid was never seen by people of Pakistan. And Musharraf's policies made the rich richer and impoverished the poor. So, the anti-Musharraf feeling went against the U.S.

Now the U.S. should learn that they must back democratic forces, and not actually prop up a military dictator.

ZAKARIA: So, now, when you look at Pakistan going forward, do you think this political paralysis that you're describing will be resolved?

There are reports that the PPP, the Pakistan People's Party, now is willing to impeach Musharraf. Will that begin to resolve this issue? KHAN: I have my doubts whether they're, you know, whether they're serious. The problem is, PPP is controlled by Asif Zardari, Benazir's widower.

He has a series corruption cases against him, which were unearthed by Musharraf -- corruption cases worth billions of dollars.

Now, he signed a national reconciliation ordinance, through which Musharraf waived off all these, gave him amnesty from corruption cases. And in return, Zardari was to protect Musharraf, stay in power.

The only way he could do it was to keep the supreme court judges out. The legal, constitutional judiciary of Pakistan was to be kept out, and Musharraf's judges were to be kept in. And that's what he has done so far.

ZAKARIA: Who is actually in charge in Pakistan right now?

KHAN: Well, this is the big mystery right now.

Unfortunately, what's happened is that, Asif Zardari, the chairman of the People's Party, which has the majority in parliament...

ZAKARIA: And the widower of Benazir Bhutto.

KHAN: ... and who inherited the party through what he claimed was a will, Benazir had left a will behind that, if anything happened to her, he would inherit the party. Many question the will. Already there are doubts about it, its authenticity.

He holds all the authority, but no responsibility. The responsibility lies with the prime minister, who just visited the U.S. But he has no authority.

So, such a management structure, whether even -- you can't even run a factory with such a structure. And as a result, there's chaos. No one knows where the authority lies, who is in charge.

ZAKARIA: And where does Musharraf fit into all this? He is technically still president.

KHAN: Well, Musharraf is, yes, the president. But the president in Pakistan's constitution has actually no powers.

But Musharraf appointed his own judges after sacking 60 percent of Pakistan's judges, by imposing an emergency on November 3 last year.

He's got his own judges, who then gave him the right to amend the constitution. And he got powers which actually are not in the constitution. So, that's where the problem lies.

The prime minister keeps complaining that the president keeps meddling in the affairs, and that he's not in charge. And so, there is a lot of confusion right now.

ZAKARIA: So, when we look at it from the outside world, one of the main concerns is, you have these growing incidents of jihadi attacks, terrorism coming out of Waziristan, and things like that.

Your political constituency is very close to Waziristan. Do you think this is impeding the ability of the Pakistani government to tackle -- either at a military level or a political level -- the sources of terrorism?

KHAN: Well, the prime minister made a unique statement, you know, which for a democratic government is bizarre. He gave all the responsibility of handling the tribal areas, where all the militancy is, to the army.

So, the army does whatever it likes. It is not under civilian control as far as the tribal area is concerned.

So, he's washed all responsibility away from him. He says, it's the army's responsibility.

But the real problem lies within Pakistan, which is facing a huge economic problem. There's unprecedented inflation, fiscal deficit, trade deficit. The rupee is falling. Massive unemployment.

And they are not -- and as they contract the economy, the monetary policy has been tightened, the people are suffering even more. So, that's really the problem right now for Pakistanis.

As far as the war on terror goes, initially, both parties in the coalition had said that they would have dialogue with the people in the tribal areas. And...

ZAKARIA: With the militants.

KHAN: With the militants. Which there is no one group now, because of the mess made in the tribal area.

The way this war on terror has been fought, basically, there are groups of militants operating all over the tribal area under no central command. And so, the government thought they would start negotiating. And that's how the number of attacks within Pakistan fell.

Last year there were 65 suicide bombings within Pakistan. It was threatened -- we were being destabilized.

And so, after the election, the attacks went down, because both governments said we'll talk to the militants.

Now, it seems that this truce is shaky, and the army might again start action against the militants.

ZAKARIA: So, you have argued to me, I know privately before, that you think there really has to be a political approach to this problem, that you have to get into a dialogue with the militants. But people say that Musharraf tried that, and it didn't work.

KHAN: Fareed, the dialogue was never given a chance. The dialogue would start -- and remember, there are a lot of groups now. So, there's a mess in the tribal area.

I was against the army being sent into the tribal areas, simply because it went in like a bull in a china shop. They started using helicopter gunships, killing civilians.

The tribal people, who had nothing to do with al Qaeda or Taliban, actually went and joined the Taliban and were called the Pakistani Taliban.

So, I thought that that was never -- that should never have been the way of dealing with the tribes. We should have got the tribes to join us in fighting the terrorists, rather than pushing them towards the terrorists.

Now the situation is quite grim, because there's a mess. The tribal structure has been destroyed. The old monarch (ph) system has been destroyed, because of this army going into the tribal areas. So, it's going to be a slow process.

But there is no way we can win this war except through dialogue. RAND Corporation came up with a report just a about a week ago, I read in Pakistan. In the last 40 years, only eight percent of terrorist conflicts were solved through military means. The rest were all intelligence, policing and dialogue.

That's what needs to be done there.

ZAKARIA: All right. On that note, Imran Khan, thank you.


ZAKARIA: As the Olympic Games begin and China introduces or reintroduces itself to the world, you are being barraged by images and sound bites out of that country.

To step back and make sense of it, we have a panel of distinguished China watchers.

My friend and China scholar, Minxin Pei from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Susan Shirk, who was a senior State Department official on China during the Clinton administration, presently a professor of international relations at the University of California in San Diego; Orville Schell, author of nine books about China and director of the Asia Society Center on U.S.-China Relations; and John Pomfret, a "Washington Post" journalist, who attended Nanjing University and is the author of "Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China."

Whew! I got all that out of the way.

Susan, U.S.-China relations. I am struck by the fact that, at a kind of elite level in America -- the policy wonks, the journalists, the former officials and officials -- there is a fairly stable consensus on China policy. We should engage China. We have to probably hedge a little bit in terms of military strategy, and things like that, but we need to integrate them into the world.

You get below that -- and I don't mean much below that. You talk to congressmen, Democratic or Republican, and you hear a lot of very harsh words about China, great suspicions.

What do you think is going on?

SUSAN SHIRK, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO AND FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR CHINA, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE: Well, I think, at the elite level, for seven administrations now, we've basically taken the same approach to China -- both parties.

So, we definitely have a bipartisan consensus that we don't want a cold war with China. We don't miss the Cold War and want to recreate it by substituting China for the Soviet Union, and that we should try to develop a basis for cooperation while maintaining our own military strength and our economic strengths -- and our alliances, as well.

But, you know, right now, the biggest problems in America are economic ones. And it's natural to try to find international reasons, blame foreigners, for our own economic problems. And our economies are so interdependent.

ZAKARIA: And I suppose these kind of tensions have happened with Japan. But it's interesting to me that they don't happen with Germany.

In other words, is there something about the foreignness of China, the fact that it's a different -- you know, it looks different culturally, civilizationally -- that makes people more suspicious? Or is it that it's a low-wage country and there's offshoring?

I mean, what do you think is going on?

ORVILLE SCHELL, AUTHOR AND DIRECTOR, ASIA SOCIETY CENTER FOR U.S.-CHINA RELATIONS: Well, I think it's also worth pointing out that China is not really an open society, and much of it is not very transparent to us. That allows for us to engage in a good deal of projection.

But it also allows us -- it makes us rather uncertain about exactly what it is that goes on, and how do things happen. Who's in charge of what? Who do you talk to when you're worried about problem X, Y and Z?

It's not as clear as one might imagine.

ZAKARIA: But, Minxin, why should somebody, you know, accuse the Chinese of taking away American jobs, when it's an American company that has decided to lower its manufacturing costs by moving a factory to China?

MINXIN PEI, CHINA PROGRAM DIRECTOR, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: Well, that kind of accusation, certainly, does not sound reasonable. And it's actually resented by the Chinese people.

I want to point out that, when it comes to China's scale, it's a real issue. When we talk about Germany, Japan, these are puny countries when they are compared with China, 1.3 billion people.

Any little change in China can have gigantic effect in the U.S., economy-wise or even in terms of military spending, because today, China's military spending is really next to the U.S. And with its growing economy, it can scale up very, very quickly. And that scares the American people.

ZAKARIA: Does it make you think that there is a kind of inevitable competition and conflict? I mean -- I don't mean militarily. I mean just...

PEI: No, look. I think as long as the Chinese political system does not change, the situation between the U.S. and China will not get better, probably will get worse.

ZAKARIA: Why? Because this regime seems very committed to good relations with the U.S.

PEI: Because American people are fundamentally very ideological. They do not trust another powerful country that is run by a different political system.

ZAKARIA: So, do you think, until you have a democratic China, the American -- it will be American suspicions that will drive the tension?

PEI: Not just American suspicions. That will be a big part. But also, I would say, Chinese suspicion as well, because the Chinese Communist Party may not actually have a lot of confidence in a superpower that is run by a different political system.

Let's compare U.S. policy toward China and India -- night and day. The U.S. pretty much trusts India on every issue, but not when it comes to China.

SHIRK: And India makes lots more problems for us internationally...

PEI: Oh, surely.

SHIRK: ... than China does. I mean, if you look at all the countries in the world and their position on U.S. in Iraq, you know, you've got Poland and actually China at this end of...

FAREED: Supporting...

SHIRK: Yes, not criticizing... ZAKARIA: Right, right.

SHIRK: ... vocally, because they do not want to create a direct clash with the United States.

ZAKARIA: Now, here's an interesting thing. Bush comes into office and he says he's going to be the most pro-freedom president in history. And yet, on arguably the most important issue in terms of the biggest country, China, he has actually sided with Beijing pretty consistently. And the Chinese government certainly sees him that way.

And on the issue of Taiwan, he has actually been more pro-Beijing than any previous president, giving Beijing exactly what it wanted, which was the signal to Taiwan: do not declare independence. Don't change the status quo in any way, or you won't get American support if you do that.

So, is this just a recognition of reality?

JOHN POMFRET, "WASHINGTON POST" JOURNALIST, AUTHOR, "CHINESE LESSONS: FIVE CLASSMATES AND THE STORY OF THE NEW CHINA": I think it also -- I mean, 9/11 was a fundamental change in how the Bush administration viewed China, in that the neocons, or whatever you want to call them, really focused their attention on another enemy, which was their global war on terror. And China immediately took a backseat and became an important partner in Afghanistan.

Also, domestically, the Bush administration -- in terms of China's domestic -- we recognized for the first time that a Chinese group, Xinjiang Uighur group, was a terrorist group, which they've never done before.

So, the Bush administration, because of 9/11, I think, fundamentally shifted their strategic view of China. And China became a partner, and an important partner.

And because, literally, the Bush administration wanted to do things that the Chinese government could stop in the U.N., the Bush administration I think was forced, and, naturally, moved towards a much more accommodating relationship with China.

SHIRK: I think also, President Bush got personally frustrated with the previous Taiwan president, Chen Shui-bian.

ZAKARIA: Who was kind of pro-independence, who seemed to send signals like that.

SHIRK: He was pushing -- oh, he definitely was pushing towards legal independence for Taiwan, step by step.

He held a referendum, which -- obviously, the greatest nightmare for the United States is Taiwan declaring formal independence through a referendum.

ZAKARIA: Because it would probably trigger a Chinese, perhaps military, response. SHIRK: Absolutely. And we have a kind of moral and legal commitment, that's not iron-clad, but to defend Taiwan.

ZAKARIA: So, I'm going to posit that, actually, Bush has handled China relations pretty well.

PEI: Oh, among his biggest foreign policy achievements.


SCHELL: Listen, I would say, in actuality, his decision to go to the games is probably the correct one, because to not go, by default, would have been such a slight. And it would have caused such a loss of face in China, that there really would have been -- it would be very difficult after that to have much of a dialogue, much of a discussion.

And I think he's really, actually, balanced the, sort of the menu of contentious issues with embrace (ph) -- sort of a tough love school of foreign policy -- quite well.

And it'll be interesting to see what he gets in the next few days, what he says and what the reaction of China is.

POMFRET: But also by making his main human rights statements outside of China -- he did them in Asia, but nonetheless, outside of China -- he said what he needed to say, but he didn't do it on their soil. And I think they will respond positively to that.

ZAKARIA: And he's been careful not to play with the issue of Tibet too much, because I think he realizes that that's a particularly unusual issue, because most of the Chinese people actually support the government in the sense of not supporting enormous independence claims, or even autonomy claims, for Tibet.

Minxin, do you think there has been some recent development, where it seems the Dalai Lama is making overtures and saying, if you will make some concessions, I will accept the Communist Party's rule in China, but also in Tibet? Is there a potential breakthrough here?

PEI: Well, there are rumors. The truth is that we do not know how serious such an overture is, and whether such overture will be taken seriously after the games.

Right now, I do not think the Chinese government will have the time to consider these overtures seriously. So, the test of the pudding is post-Olympic Chinese politics.

ZAKARIA: Is China post-Olympics going to look different? Is it going to look more -- are they going to relax a little bit more? Or are they going to tighten?

SCHELL: Well, they're going to have to relax, because the state of tension is so heightened now.

On Tibet, you know, I'm not tremendously optimistic, because the nature of leadership in China now is much more consensual. It's very difficult for any one leader to take a bold initiative and sort of sell it and market it.

And it tends to make things a little bit more democratic, less erratic, but also to deprive the country of the kind of things that Deng Xiaoping, for instance, could do.

Even Jiang Zemin, when he met with Clinton, he decided at the last minute to have their press conference broadcast live. It was a very bold decision.

I don't think there's a snowball's chance in hell that Hu Jintao would allow such a thing to happen now -- much more controlled and much more negotiated.

So, I don't think the kind of bold policy initiative that it would require to resolve Tibet is in the offing.

ZAKARIA: And we'll be back.


ZAKARIA: More now from my distinguished China panel. Joining me, Minxin Pei, Orville Schell, Susan Shirk and John Pomfret.

Minxin, let me ask you. China, going into the Olympics, seems extraordinarily confident. I mean, not just the regime, which seems to have tackled a myriad problems, from pollution to Tibet, and all these things, reasonably deftly. But the Chinese people also seem to be proud and confident, in fact, more so than most people would have expected.

What do you think is going on?

PEI: I think the Chinese people probably are more confident than the government itself. That's because they have had extraordinary record in terms of economic growth, and they are beginning to come out of their own self-isolation after Tiananmen.

And this decade of re-engagement with the world -- both the world is engaging China, and China is engaging with the world -- has given them enough experience and self-confidence.

ZAKARIA: Orville, you've written a Newsweek cover story in which you talk about the rise of nationalism in China. Part of this confidence is nationalism.

Is it something we should worry about? When we see all these Chinese people waving Chinese flags, should we sit back and worry?

SCHELL: Well, I think, you know, a lot of the nationalism suggests, on the one hand -- it's a paradox -- confidence, but on the other hand a lack of confidence.

I think nationalism in certain ways papers over a sense of a certain disbelief that China has actually arrived at this state of great power status.

SHIRK: This nationalism, of course, was encouraged by then- President Jiang Zemin and the Chinese Communist Party during the post- Tiananmen decade of the 1990s. So, what we're seeing today is both a spontaneous kind of patriotism and anti-foreign nationalism.

You notice that we always say we're patriotic, they're nationalist.

So, some of it is spontaneous, but some of it has definitely been ginned up by the party as a way of getting support for themselves.

POMFRET: There's little possibility, from my perspective, at least, that it's going to coalesce around some type of aggressive, anti-foreign, expansionist type of nationalism.

I think, like Susan said, it was very much ginned up by the party. The party can turn it on and turn it off. Yes, it's a very dangerous tiger for the party to ride. But so far, the party has been very smart about turning it on when it needs to, and then turning it off when it needs to, as well.

And they will arrest nationalists, if they go out of line, and throw those people in jail. And nobody in China wants to head into the Chinese gulag.

ZAKARIA: The argument here is that the party uses it as a way to justify its -- to build support for itself, because communism as a justifying ideology has died.

SCHELL: Well, it certainly did that during the revolution. You know, China against the world, anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist, anti-capitalist. And there's a residue of that to exploit this very deep aquifer of sentiment, which can serve its purposes. But...

ZAKARIA: But they're still trying to join the world economically and...

SCHELL: Look. It's a paradox. Listen. You cannot understand China in any way, except as a whole series of contradictions, where opposite things are true at the same time.

ZAKARIA: All right. So, in that case, though, what I want to ask you, Minxin, is, if the nationalism is not so much of a worry -- here's another paradox.

Is China weak or strong today?

PEI: Well, China is both weak and strong. I think China is very strong in terms of its government's ability to mobilize resources. And the Olympics really gives China a chance to show how strong its government is in terms of building things, organizing such a complex, gigantic event.

But it's also weak in the sense that, on a daily basis, what the government ought to be doing is not getting done very well. On the one hand, China is spending 1.5 percent of its GDP on this game. At the same time...

ZAKARIA: Wait. Is that right? It's spending 1.5...

PEI: One point five percent of its GDP is $45 billion.

ZAKARIA: On this game.

PEI: On this game.

On the other hand, China is not spending 1.5 percent of its GDP on treating the environment, providing health care for its citizens.

So, you see, indeed, as Orville has just said, this huge contradiction.

ZAKARIA: You tell a very funny story about the reception your book has had in the two countries. Tell that story.

SHIRK: OK. Well, the title of my book is "China: Fragile Superpower." And as I was writing the book, I would tell colleagues in America and in China that I was writing this book called "Fragile Superpower."

And the Americans usually would say to me, "Hmm. What do you mean, fragile?" They were puzzled by that.

But in China, every single Chinese colleague said to me, "What do you mean, superpower?"

POMFRET: I think that the reaction to your book is a fascinating one, because it also indicates that -- in America we have this enormous capability to overestimate China and to underestimate their problems. And they are facing domestically serious problems, in demographics, the environment, as Minxin has talked about.

And also, the whole idea of China as a model. In America we seem to think of China sometimes as somehow a competitive model to our system. Where, if you look around the world at what countries are embracing China's model, you have Sudan, you have Zimbabwe maybe, Burma. Does that make some type of a competitive block to the Western liberal democracy?

ZAKARIA: Minxin, there was this Pew survey in which the Chinese have across as the most satisfied country in the world. You know, eight of 10 or nine out of 10 Chinese like China.

But there was a flip side to it, which is, they were asked what they thought the world thought of China. And they all said, "Well, the world loves us."

And then Pew went around and asked the world what they thought. And it turns out the world's estimation of China is much lower, that they have a real brand problem, if you will.

What is that about, do you think? PEI: I think the most biggest, the most important problem in that survey is that it shows that the Chinese people actually do not know how the world thinks about China. That's because the Chinese media is still tightly controlled by the government, especially in the coverage of international events.

ZAKARIA: So, they're kind of living in a bubble. And it does...

PEI: So to speak.

ZAKARIA: And it does seem, Orville, that there is no "Chinese Dream" that people around the world yearn for. And if you go closer to China, with South Korea, Japan, India, there is actually a great deal of unease at China's rise.

SCHELL: Well, I mean, China is a very dynamic, up-and-coming country, that obviously creates a lot of unease everywhere, I think.

I think, as John suggests, we should look behind the screen. It's quite amazing what you find. You find a tremendous institutional sort of weakness.

And the astounding thing to me is the fact that they've gotten done as much as they have, given the fact that they live in this kind of weird world of constant transition between institutions laid down in the '50s during the Stalin era, and then this period of rapid change.

It all is a bit mysterious, I think, to those of us who follow it.

ZAKARIA: Minxin, final question to you.

Ten years from now, do you think China will look more democratic politically than it is today?

PEI: China's society will be more democratic. I'm not so sure about its political system.

ZAKARIA: On that note, thank you all.

And we'll be back.


ZAKARIA: Joining me now, Yale University's Jonathan Spence, perhaps the foremost historian of China, the author of "The Search for Modern China."

Welcome, Professor Spence.


ZAKARIA: So, China starts the Olympics, and this has been long awaited. They desperately tried to get the 2000 Olympics. SPENCE: Right.

ZAKARIA: Is this a kind of coming out party for China?

SPENCE: I think they see it as a very major moment, yes, internationally. They were bitterly disappointed in the failure to get the 2000 Olympics, which they saw as suitably millennarian, and announcing the new Chinese age on the planet.

And they also felt that was kind of rigged against them by a few countries, and that they were, you know, just in their grasp when they lost the chance.

ZAKARIA: Do they think the United States was one of the countries that rooted (ph)...

SPENCE: Well...

ZAKARIA: ... against them?

SPENCE: ... I'm not sure specifically. They felt that the way that votes tabulated showed maybe undue influence, you know, politicizing of the games.

But I don't know, on the record that they actually charged any particular person. They just felt it was an unfair procedure.

And they'd over-advertised in advance in their own country. I remember being in China just before then, and all -- the whole city was festooned with things announcing 2000 as our year, and then it didn't work. So, there was real mortification.

ZAKARIA: But I'm always struck when I go to China, how Westernized it seems.

SPENCE: The density of the urbanized population is so huge, and the pace of architectural redevelopment is so strong. And the coming of the car, of course, is something we barely understood in China.

Automobiles are just increasing so rapidly, and with the whole turnpike structure that goes with them, the gas station structure, all the servicing and the garages and the, you know, the gas pumps.

So, I mean, China is just beginning to really -- we really haven't seen anything yet. And to travel on a Chinese road outside a biggish industrial city is just an astonishing experience.

ZAKARIA: In what sense?

SPENCE: In the sheer frenzy of traffic. The density of traffic, the closeness of which people drive -- trucks and cars and motorbikes, and everything all tangled up.

And in a sense, the unsafe -- the dangerous angles at which loads go right up into the air. You're driving past, and you can look up. And you can see this whole load teetering above the car that you're driving, you know.

But some Chinese take it as sort of a fascination. I mean, this is new. This is new. And to be in a small, provincial town with three or four cars is intoxicating...


SPENCE: ... at the moment.

People haven't really faced -- let alone the gas price -- they haven't really faced all the other environmental and practical sides to this. When do families move to two cars from one? When do you move to a larger car from a smaller one? And what does it do to space between towns, when the space is eaten up by the speed of the car?

ZAKARIA: Professor Spence, one of the things people wonder about as they watch the Olympics and China's rise economically is the issue of Chinese nationalism.

SPENCE: Right.

ZAKARIA: What does this mean when you have 1.3 billion rising? Is China inherently a country where you will see a great deal of nationalism, and we will see a great deal of national pride and prickliness?

SPENCE: Some people -- some scholars and others -- think that the rise of Chinese nationalism is particularly kind of self- conscious. It's to develop a unifying device for extremely disparate peoples.

China -- there is no central Chinese persona. There are enormous amounts of different people from many, many different backgrounds with some shared cultural characteristics, some shared linguistic characteristics, and yet, also, with violently different dialects.

I've been reading about the Catholic missionaries quite a bit recently in the 16th century. And they were -- the very early Catholics were also trying to decide, what language should we learn. You know, they were told to go out and learn Chinese.

When they got to China, they found there were many Chinese languages. Which one? Should they learn Cantonese? Should they learn Shanghai dialect? Should they learn Beijing? Should they learn western dialect? And different religious groups made different decisions about this.

So, language itself was not a bond as a spoken force. But the extraordinary thing about China is, the writing system means that China's written language was a cohesive force, because everybody could read the same texts, even if they couldn't pronounce them the same way.

ZAKARIA: As European countries grew in power in the 19th century, you also had the rise of nationalism. And that nationalism was often directed against outsiders. You know, it was sort of directed against the foreigner, the outsider.

SPENCE: Right, right.

ZAKARIA: Is Chinese nationalism directed against people around it, against the West?

SPENCE: That couldn't be more tricky as a question. It's difficult. It's not just those from the West, because it could also be Japan, as we've seen quite dramatically.

Or it could shift, like with the Soviet Union, or now Russia, you know, as it tries to think through its options.

But, so, what we might call loosely anti-foreignism has certainly been present in China at different times. And people could argue about whether that's for good reason, the hostility to the foreigner, or whether the foreigners had real grievances about Chinese tariff structures, Chinese resistance to market opening.

Some of these sound rather contemporary. You know, Chinese unwillingness to have the same sense of ethical values in certain areas of human rights. And all of these things are seen as separating the different cultures.

ZAKARIA: Is there an ideal of great athleticism in Chinese classical literature, the way there is in Greek and Roman?

SPENCE: That, to me, again, is fascinating. It's different from that. It doesn't quite have the same -- you certainly don't get what I called in a recent lecture, you don't get the same Chinese idea of the body beautiful, as you would with male athleticism in Greek or Roman depictions.

Chinese bodies, even heroic bodies, are depicted enormously differently from the Western idea of a heroic body.

ZAKARIA: How are they depicted?

SPENCE: Much more stooped and slumped, and stouter. And you get the sense that a lot more Chinese physical strength goes into canniness, goes into brainpower.

And so, when the Chinese read their favorite novels about military daring-do and the excitement of clashing groups and so on, they're very often cerebral. They're from the head. They're tricking the enemy. They're luring the enemy in deep. There are guerrilla warfare tactics. There are use of impersonation, of...

ZAKARIA: Even in sports.

SPENCE: Yes. Well, the sports themselves lead into ideas that certain kinds of sport need different kinds of skill and subtlety.

ZAKARIA: If the Chinese do end up getting the largest number of gold medals at this Olympics, it will be a perfect example of borrowing from the West... SPENCE: True.

ZAKARIA: ... and then beating them at their own game.

SPENCE: It's exactly the classical 19th century position. Yes, it would be.

And I think they are going to get a great many medals.

I wish we didn't spend so much time worrying about medals, but we do. And media like, and the public likes it. It's an easy tabulation.

ZAKARIA: Well, and the Chinese like it. Right?


ZAKARIA: I mean, one of the things I'm struck by, again, in modern China is, they want to build the tallest building, the biggest dam, the largest shopping mall. When you go there, they very proudly boast of passing these metrics.

SPENCE: Yes. They love this. And so, they want to have the fastest sprinters, and the best swimmers, and the most daring divers, and the best gymnasts. And we're going to see all this in operation, I think.

But lying behind this, is what I think I'm saying, are a lot of complicated aspects of tension and development and growth between these different cultural centers. And that's why I'm looking forward to going, and sort of try to see some of this in action.

ZAKARIA: Jonathan Spence, thank you very much.

SPENCE: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: And we'll be right back.


ZAKARIA: All right. If you've ever wondered whether the cliche is true that the pen is mightier than the sword, consider the case of Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

Solzhenitsyn, whose words helped bring down the Soviet empire, died last week at 89 years.

Once imprisoned, tortured and exiled by the Kremlin, it now honored him with a state funeral, televised live, that was attended by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, President Medvedev and former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn was a young man, who served with distinction in the Red Army during World War II. In February 1945, he was arrested for writing a letter to a friend, in which he referred disrespectfully to Soviet leader Josef Stalin, as "the man with the moustache."

His punishment for this -- eight years imprisonment.

In those eight years, Alexander Solzhenitsyn observed, thought and remembered. He wasn't allowed to write, so he simply memorized his ideas.

By the time he was released, he had committed to memory 12,000 lines. Eventually, these lines, and many more, got published, mostly in the West.

Solzhenitsyn introduced the world to the vast system of gruesome prison camps, the Russian acronym for which was gulag, that dotted the Soviet Union like an archipelago.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Anne Applebaum writes, "It is very easy in a world when news is instant and photographs travel as quickly as they are taken, to forget how powerful still are written words."

In that spirit, and given that we still have much of August left, I wanted to tell you about some of the best books I've read recently. If you log onto my Web site, I'll give you the recommendations.

And my question for this week is: What's the best book -- non- fiction only, no novels -- that you have read this year?

I'll give you a couple of weeks to think about it, so take your time making your choices.

You can e-mail me at You can also visit our Web site,, for highlights from this program. And you can always find our weekly podcast on the Web site.

See you next week.