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Government Corruption in China; Interview with Nancy Pelosi

Aired April 24, 2012 - 15:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening. I'm Christiane Amanpour, and welcome to our program.

China is not a country without scandal. It is simply a country in which, until now, the world has almost never heard about scandal. The government maintains iron control. But now China's dirty laundry is on display for all the world to see in a sensational tale of murder and mayhem.

In my brief tonight, will this corruption and the very public scandal around it bring political change to China? First, the story.

One of China's most powerful political bosses, Bo Xilai, a charismatic and popular leader, has been kicked out of the politburo. His wife is suspected of having a British business man murdered because of a business deal gone sour, and there are questions of bribery.

The official who exposed the scandal was so afraid of reprisal that he turned himself into the American consulate, seeking asylum.

Bo Xilai's conspicuous wealth -- his son's Ferrari and tales of partying at expensive private schools abroad all have sparked fury in a country where the gap between rich and poor is dramatic. The entire country is reeling from this public exposure of private wrongdoing and now the question.

Might the Chinese people rise up and put the government on notice? Tonight I'll talk to one of the most powerful women in America, Nancy Pelosi, on American relations with China, as well as women's movements around the world.

But first, the former U.S. ambassador to China and the former Republican presidential candidate, Jon Huntsman, on the scandal that is rocking China.


AMANPOUR: Governor Huntsman, thank you for joining us.


AMANPOUR: You were in China during Bo's rise what did you expect for his future? What could he have been for the Chinese political system?

HUNTSMAN: Well, when I saw the way that he carried out a rather public and high-profile campaign -- I use that term loosely for a position in the standing committee of the politburo, which effectively is the board of directors of the country, the top nine seats -- I thought to myself, this is either the new wave of how one is put in higher office or it's not going to go over so well.

AMANPOUR: Which it didn't.

HUNTSMAN: Which it didn't.

AMANPOUR: Are you surprised by the way he's been so publicly vilified?

HUNTSMAN: This, I think, is a sign of growing transparency within the party, which is a good thing. And I think we need to reflect on the idea that, some years ago, we never would have seen this. I think there's always a lot of tussling behind the velvet curtain, so to speak. But it's never seen by the rest of the world.

This has been very public and very high profile, and I think that's largely due to greater transparency now, in China and within the party.

AMANPOUR: Obviously, what it's brought up is this incredible corruption. Now he, on the one hand, tried to portray himself as a crusader against organized crime, against corruption.

On the other hand, you're seeing these staggering numbers come out. Some report it may have been a leaked report from the China Central Bank, said something like $123 billion was smuggled out of the country, you know, by some of the leadership. What is the extent of the corruption, and can this put an end to it or not?

HUNTSMAN: Corruption is endemic and widespread. And if there's one thing that will bring the party down, it will be corruption. And I think the party leadership knows this very well.

And so what have they done over the last couple of years? They've made very high-profile examples of corruption cases. If there's one thing you see on the headlines, the front pages of the party papers throughout China, it's been recent corruption cases.

AMANPOUR: Are the Chinese leadership concerned that, had they not taken a hard stand, that people would rise up in anger over this kind of -- over this kind of corruption or this kind of story?

HUNTSMAN: If you look at all of the uprisings around the country, most of them largely unreported -- and there are probably 100,000 or more a year -- it's usually due to local corruption cases. Somebody gets away with something. Some local government official gets off scot-free after something.

AMANPOUR: So this could be a real problem even in tightly-controlled China.

HUNTSMAN: This gets right to the heart of the credibility of the party.

AMANPOUR: They're obviously looking around the world, as you just mentioned, all these uprisings that are going on around the world, do you think that this could be the China movement, this kind of anti-corruption crusade?

Or anger by the people, I mean, in other words, are there leaders there right now, do you think, really worried that they could be threatened if corruption becomes a real issue and angers the people?

HUNTSMAN: I suspect they're very concerned about how widespread this becomes in the minds of their citizens, and that's why, when they look at a country with 600 million in Internet users and 90 million bloggers, this is something they never had to deal with before.

I mean, if you were to take the events of 1989, the Tiananmen Square uprising -- May and June of 1989 -- and if you were to overlayer on top of that the power of the Internet today versus the nascent form it was in back then, you can imagine how widespread that would have become.

So they're well aware that there is this organizing force called social networking technology, and trying to tamp it down to the best of their ability, isolating, containing the Chungking incident, dealing with it rather transparently, which is unprecedented in getting it behind them as quickly as they can.

AMANPOUR: And can they?

HUNTSMAN: Well, there will be lessons learned. There's no question about this, and Xi Jinping, when he takes over, he'll have to consolidate his power. After October, it'll take him probably six months to a year to do that, and then he's going to have to confront those who are seeking to reform the domestic lay of the land.

Politically, those who are seeking greater human rights and religious tolerance, those who want an expression of acceptance for the role of the Internet in society -- he's going to have to deal with all of these in 2014 and 2015.

These are big issues, and they all speak to reform, and my sense is that he will let enough out in terms of reform to keep things moving along without any major crisis or any major upheaval.

AMANPOUR: And now, of course, what does the U.S. do? How does the U.S. deal with a rising China?

Let me play for you something that your former competitor, former challenger on the road, Mitt Romney, said, who's presumably going to be the Republican nominee. This is what he had to say about China.


MITT ROMNEY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How is it that China has been so successful in taking away our jobs? Well, let me tell you how, by cheating. One thing they've done is they've held down their currency artificially.

They also steal our designs and our patents and our brand names and our know-how, and on that basis, they're able to take jobs. And they hack into our computers, corporate computers and government computers, and steal as well.

This president has just sat idly by and watched that happen. Oh, he complains -- he says he would take them to the mat -- but they've walked all over him. If I'm president of the United States, that's going to end. On day one, I will declare China a currency manipulator, allowing me to put tariffs on products where they're stealing American jobs unfairly.



AMANPOUR: A lot of applause on the campaign trail. Is that sound policy?

HUNTSMAN: Well, it's probably good politics, as it is in China. They bash the United States and they use it to their advantage there.

At the end of the day, when somebody's been elected, whether it was Ronald Reagan in 1980, who bashed China, or whether it was Bill Clinton in 1992, who referred to the butchers of Beijing, you then get in office, and you say, OK, the reality of the world today is that you've got two countries on the world's stage.

You have the United States and China. You've got to make the relationship work. Despite all the challenges and all the problems -- and what Governor Romney mentioned -- a litany of crimes -- are all very real, and they're part of the relationship that also includes, by the way, some global dimensions that are unprecedented.

And if the United States and China don't engage together, the world is a much more dangerous place.

AMANPOUR: This week you were quoted as saying that some of the messes of your own party here -- the Republican Party -- resembled perhaps a little bit of the Communist Party of China. You were very upset that you were disinvited from a Republican fundraiser simply for the big sin of saying perhaps there should be a third party. What did you mean by that?

HUNTSMAN: Well, it shouldn't be blown out of context. My comment was simply that we need a -- we need a broad-based tent as a party. We need to be inclusionary as opposed to exclusionary. And --

AMANPOUR: Did you think it's become extreme, your party?

HUNTSMAN: Well, I think that the tendency is certainly there to begin excluding, and if we exclude, we don't win elections. And we have a very real possibility of winning the election this year, but we've got to make sure that we do what Ronald Reagan did. We ensure that it's a big tent party, that all voices are heard, and all voices are invited to the party as well.

AMANPOUR: You've also talked about a void of leadership. What do you mean precisely by that? I mean, look. When people saw your candidacy, they thought, oh, that's interesting. It's a very sort of reasonable, sensible Republican voice.

Even on climate change, you were saying you were going to hue to what the scientists say. You sort of wobbled a little bit on that during the campaign, and we had a conversation about it.

But how difficult is it to take that sensible Republican view these days?

HUNTSMAN: I think the people of this country are crying out for a voice that represents the broad middle, because they're not represented in the early phases of the campaign.

But a voice that speaks out with bold and creative and courageous vision -- and sometimes the political process waters things down to the least common denominator and takes away the sense of vision or leadership or bold ideas.

We can't afford that any more in this country. We're flat-footed, and we've got to break out with some form of bold leadership, and I think the opening is there for a leader to seize it. And I think, within the Republican Party, that is a very real possibility, and I hope that that happens.

AMANPOUR: But the candidate is going to be Mitt Romney, barring some unimaginable intervention somewhere. Is he that leader?

HUNTSMAN: Oh, I think he certainly can be. I think he's got the message on jobs, about economic recovery, which is exactly the issue that I think is going to spell the difference in November.

AMANPOUR: And in Harvard -- at Harvard, you mentioned something about a trust deficit regarding Romney. What did you mean?

HUNTSMAN: Well, I mentioned a trust deficit in the country generally. And that is a nation where our people no longer trust our leaders, no longer trust our institutions of power. And I think this is as corrosive as the economic deficit we face.

So putting forward leaders who have credibility and believability, I think, increasingly, is important.

AMANPOUR: Everybody's looking at Governor Romney, looking at what he did as governor and the legislation that he enacted and all of that, and then what he's done as a candidate, which is really go to the extreme. Is he able, as you say, to come back to a center that people are crying for?

HUNTSMAN: We'll see. If you sign too many pledges along your political journey, it becomes almost impossible to do that. I think he does have the leadership ability, I think he's got fundamental knowledge and a track record as it relates to jobs and an understanding of how the economy works, where he can put forward a credible and a legitimate message.

But we've got to have a system that promotes widespread participation from the very beginning. The exclusionary caucuses and primaries that don't encourage our young people to get out when it's their country they're about to inherit -- it doesn't get us to where we need to be.

AMANPOUR: Governor Huntsman, thank you very much for joining me.

HUNTSMAN: Thanks, Christiane. Great to be with you.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And with China on the rise, the United States on the decline, as some people say, we'll get another perspective from one of the most powerful women in America, Nancy Pelosi, and also her unique view of the changing role of women in an ever-changing world.



AMANPOUR: Welcome back. And now to the United States. Nancy Pelosi broke barriers here when she became the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives, making her third in line to the presidency.

No longer Speaker, she remains one of the most powerful political leaders in America. And I sat down with her earlier to get her unique perspective on the important U.S.-China relationship as well as America's place in the world and the role of women in it.


AMANPOUR: Leader Pelosi, thank you very much for being here.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CA.: My pleasure.

AMANPOUR: I wanted to start out by asking you about China. You have spent the last 20 years really focusing on China.

There is a fascinating new study that's just come out using leadership, people involved in Chinese leadership and American leadership, whereby the Chinese truly believe that it's a zero-sum game now between the United States and China, and that they are on the fast track to superseding America, if the U.S. current political and economic troubles continue. Do you buy that?

PELOSI: No, I don't buy that at all. I -- China is a very important country. It's a very important economy and certainly their growth is something to be marveled at. But never underestimate the United States of America.

AMANPOUR: And yet, they point out that the U.S. GDP was eight times the size of China's just at the year outgoing (ph) 2003. Now it's just about three times the size of China's. So there is a lowering in terms of the economic (inaudible).

PELOSI: Well, there's a narrowing. There's for sure. But they had a long way to come. We -- you know, we are going at our pace. They were coming from way -- a way behind. But whatever it is, it's an important relationship between our two countries.

We have some issues that relate to manipulation of currency, treatment of people in China and Tibet and the rest. But the fact is that we have some issues to work on, whether it's climate issues, our energy, the economy and the rest.

AMANPOUR: Do you think there's a trust between the United States and China? I mean, this group have said that there's a corrosive mistrust, in fact, between the two countries, and in fact the Chinese, the top levels of leadership think that the United States is actively trying to undermine its economic and military growth.

PELOSI: I don't think that that is so. I think that we have a sort of a objective view of all of the countries in the world and what their economic and military growth is. But it is what it is. It's nothing for us to deter. It's just for us to take note of. And to -- of course, always be number one. That's the American way.

AMANPOUR: It might be the American way, but how do you react to this, that the -- because they believe that they are rising at a faster rate, that there is no longer any necessity for the United States to be able to quote-unquote dictate to China, whether it be on economic policy, military or even human rights, which I know is what you have been so concerned about, human rights.

PELOSI: Well, we haven't dictated to them. We'd like to be able to have common ground on respect for the dignity and worth of people, but they have not -- we have not dictated and they haven't responded.

We've just stated what our values are, to remove barriers of U.S. products into Chinese markets, to stop their violation of our intellectual property rights, their piracy of our intellectual property, which they continue to do. And to hopefully free the prisoners that were arrested at the time of Tiananmen and stuff, their actions against the Dalai Lama and the people in Tibet. None of that has worked.

AMANPOUR: What do you make of the fact that you were very vocal, that there shouldn't be, you know, the most favored nation relations between the United States and China, until they cooperated properly on human rights?

And it's not really a key plank of the Obama administration or any administration, (inaudible).

PELOSI: No, it hasn't been for any president, Democrat or Republican. But in Congress, there is --was bipartisan support for saying we want intellectuals to be treated the same way as you treat intellectual property.

We were willing to say that the Chinese, unless you stop violating our intellectual property, we're going to have some trade adjustments. But we didn't say that about human rights and intellectuals who were being persecuted (inaudible).

AMANPOUR: Would you prefer to see a stronger admonition from the administration?

PELOSI: I think it's after the fact. I think 20 years ago, the United States decided to ride the Chinese tiger and China will decide when we don't any more.

AMANPOUR: You've just come back from North Africa, you visited Egypt. In fact, we have a picture of you meeting with Field Marshall Tantawi, the military leader of Egypt. They're about to go through the democratic process. What do you believe will be the fate of women in a new Egypt or Tunisia or elsewhere in the -- Libya, for instance?

PELOSI: The point is what we say to everybody, what I say to President Karzai, whether I'm in Afghanistan or when he's here, is that it really is in your interest to have women be involved in writing constitutions and in making decisions because those decisions are going to affect them.

And if they're going to have legitimacy, you want to have women's support. If they're written without women involved and they don't turn out OK, there's a reason why.

AMANPOUR: So what leverage, then, does the U.S. have? I mean, I understand the treaty and I understand what's in the U.S., you know, vital national interest, and I understand that Egypt is a -- is a vital partner, also for Israel. But does it concern you right now? Because we've heard so many complaints and fears from the women in Egypt.

PELOSI: Yes, here's what I think. The -- everybody in that region says we should be supporting Egypt. Egypt's stability is essential, not just to Egypt, and not just in our relationship, but to the region. And I mean the entire region.

And so that doesn't mean we abandon what we're trying to as far as they're concerned. It may strengthen our hand as we enhance our relationship. But I want to tell you, there's an inevitability to women taking leadership roles. It's an answer to many ills in society.

AMANPOUR: As we're all watching the presidential race in Egypt, are you worried that if an Islamist should win, which is likely in Egypt, that that will necessarily pit Egypt against the United States?

PELOSI: Well, there are Islamists and there are Islamists, as you know better than anyone. You know are so familiar with the region when you were there. They were saying, well, we reserve the right to review all of our treaties when we were talking at Camp David accords (ph) and the rest. And I said, so do we. But in any event, I think it's in everybody's interest for us to find a way to go forward.

AMANPOUR: So you mentioned Camp David, obviously, the historic agreement between Egypt and Israel. Do you -- do you -- are you concerned that an election might create an Egypt that's pitted against Israel?

PELOSI: I don't think so. I mean, let me -- I hope not. But the sentiment that I picked up is people want to be who they are. Yes, that's for sure, whatever, wherever they are, on the Islamic range of things. But the heavy interest of their country at heart and part of that means they have to have economic growth and job creation and in our relationship, hopefully, we can help them with that.

AMANPOUR: I want to show you something which I know you've seen a lot, but our audience overseas has not seen. There are some of these commercials that were put about you during the 2010 congressional elections. Here's one of them, where really it was a (inaudible) against Nancy Pelosi.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) liberal San Francisco. But Harry Reid and Barack Obama have other plans.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Under my plan, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now gorged on our taxpayer dollars, Pelosi has grown into a power-hungry (inaudible) defying the will of the American people, who has the power to stop her?



PELOSI: I never saw that before. I heard about it. I heard about it, but I didn't see that one.

AMANPOUR: But is that misogynistic?

PELOSI: Yes, absolutely. Positively. And that's why I say to women, you know, we have to watch each other's back. It isn't -- that's why when you have vitriol in elections and a woman is engaged in that debate, it's not flattering.

That's why if you have civility and reasonableness we can do much better. But this now, they decided that a woman in power as third ranking person in the United States, president, vice president, Speaker of the House, was really a threat to their special interests. And therefore they had to come after me. I became a target.

AMANPOUR: And they spent something like $75 million worth of ads --

PELOSI: At least.

AMANPOUR: -- directed specifically at you. Now is that a compliment because of your power? Or is that about you being a woman?


AMANPOUR: Leader Pelosi, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

PELOSI: My pleasure.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And still ahead, "The rich are different from you and me. They have more money." If the novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald was right, then the superrich Chinese are really different. Where they spend all those billions, when we come back.


AMANPOUR: We've focused a lot on China this past half hour, so for our final thought, let's imagine where in the world all those Chinese millions go. Make that billions. We've heard allegations of how corrupt party bosses smuggled over $100 billion out of China. Add to that the staggering wealth of the richest party members, some $90 billion in assets. So where in the world do they spend it?

Look no further than the luxury shops of New York, London and all the global capitals. The Chinese are flocking to the United States in record numbers, spending nearly $6,000 per visit. Some go to Disney World.

But what the superrich Chinese really love to do is shop, and they're not buying tacky souvenirs at Tiffany's, at Bergdorf Goodman, among other glittering Fifth Avenue stores. The Chinese tourist rules and a Mandarin- speaking sales staff is now a necessity. Forget the Year of the Dragon. It's the year of the designer label.

And that's it for tonight's program. Thank you for watching. You can always join us on Twitter and every day we tweet links to our full-length episodes online. That's at Thank you and good night from New York.