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FAREED ZAKARIA GPS

Interview with Timothy Geithner

Aired May 18, 2014 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.

We will start today's show with Timothy Geithner, the former secretary of the Treasury who is finally talking.

Why did he bail out the same banks that many blame for causing the global financial crisis? I will ask him. And drones. The United States still uses them in many places around the world, but now it seems everybody has a drone.

Former terror official Richard Clock on the frightening future of the robotic killing machines.

Also, in the Internet age, is there something you wish you could hide? Well, you're in luck. At least if you live in the European Union. I'll explain and tell you about the conflict with freedom of speech.

And is China becoming more nationalist, more capitalist, more democratic? What do the people of China really want? Kevin Osnose of the "New Yorker" tells us.

But first here's my take. Barack Obama's pivot to Asia has been widely praised. But many critics wished that he would infuse the policy with greater substance and energy. In fact, the administration has the opportunity to fill in one of the great missing pieces of that policy, a strategic relationship with the continent's second largest country, India, once a new government is formed in New Delhi.

But it will require both countries to make some major changes. The United States has to clear the air with the person who will be India's next prime minister, Narendra Modi. Modi has been shunned by U.S. officials for a decade. The George W. Bush administration had put him on a black list of sorts and denied him a visa to come to America. The visa issue is now irrelevant, because as head of government Modi automatically gets a special visa.

But the Obama administration should go further and move to strengthen ties with him. The cold shoulder should be replaced with a warm embrace.

First a few words to explain the black list and why, in my view, putting Modi on it was selective, arbitrary and excessive. Modi is a Hindu nationalist politician and is until he becomes prime minister, head of the government in the Indian state of Godhra. He held that job in 2002 when fierce rioting between Hindus and Muslims broke out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: There's a Hindu mob to my left and a Muslim mob to my right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAKARIA: In that capacity it is alleged he encouraged or did nothing to stop vigilante violence against Muslims and police complicit with these violence. In those riots 1,000 people, almost all Muslims, died. Subsequent prosecutions of those accused of killing Muslims have been minimal.

It is a dark episode in India's history, and Modi comes out of it tainted as the head of the state government at the time. But his own role does remain unclear. Three Indian investigations have cleared him of specific culpability, though these investigations have been criticized by human rights groups with credible concerns.

Here's the part that bothers me. Modi is the only individual ever to have been denied a visa for violating religious freedom, which makes the Bush administration's decision look utterly arbitrary.

Why Modi and not, for example, Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq? He heads a government that is deeply sectarian, has been accused of involvement with death squads and reprisal killings and is certainly involved in the systematic persecution of Sunnis in his country. And yet far from being shunned, Maliki has been received in Washington as an honored guest on many occasions by two American administrations.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the very body that has singled Modi out, lists countries of particular concern for their oppression of religious minorities. Chief among them, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iraq. Not a single government official from any of these countries has ever been placed on a black list or denied a visa. When human rights issues are used in a blatantly selective manner, they rightly invite charges of hypocrisy.

If the United States can shift its attitude towards Mr. Modi, Mr. Modi will have to get over his irritation with America. More importantly he will have to shift his country's posture on a much larger issues of issues.

For several years now, Indian foreign policy has been adrift. New Delhi has been punching below its weight, so much so that the country has almost disappeared as a serious player in the region and the world. Torn between its old anti-colonial postures and the reality of a rising China, India has been stuck. It has shied away from the kind of robust relationship with the United States that would help it economically, militarily and politically.

If the United States and India, the world's oldest and largest democracies, could create a genuine partnership, it would be a good thing for Asian stability, global prosperity and most especially for the cause of democracy and human rights around the world.

For more go to CNN.com/fareed and read my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAKARIA (voice-over): January 27th, 2009. The United States was suffering from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. And Timothy Geithner had just embarked from his first full day as secretary of the Treasury. He boldly told President Obama that they still had five financial bombs to defuse.

Lehman had exploded but Fannie, Freddie, AIG, Citigroup and Bank of America was still ticking and in deep trouble, and they were bigger than Lehman. The financial system as a whole was at risk of collapse. The question was, how to stop it.

Geithner recounts the extraordinary events in his new book "Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises." It is part self- deprecating memoir and part explanation of the controversial decision to bail out the banks during the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009. We sat down to talk about it all.

(On camera): Tim Geithner, welcome.

TIMOTHY GEITHNER, FORMER TREASURY SECRETARY: Nice to see you.

ZAKARIA: So one of the things that will surprise people about this book is to learn some of the details about you, because you're sort of one of these blank slates under which people have projected whatever they want to.

GEITHNER: Some hopes and some fears.

ZAKARIA (voice-over): Geithner, the self-proclaimed backstage guy, served as president of the New York Federal Reserve from 2003 to 2009 during the George W. Bush administration and the beginning of the Obama White House. Before that, Geithner worked at the Treasury Department in the IMF. And unless you count a brief stint at Henry Kissinger's consulting firm, Geithner never worked in the private sector.

And yet the rumors persisted. He was one of them, a banker. He's even been misidentified as a Goldman Sachs alum.

(On camera): Almost everybody thought you were a banker when you, in fact, had never worked in a bank in your life. But I think what most people wouldn't know is that you were a Republican.

GEITHNER: I was. I would say not an actively political Republican, but when I came out of college at that time, I was definitely at the somewhat conservative end, certainly on economic policy. And I guess -- I guess on foreign policy issues, too. And I sort of -- was in the realist tradition of foreign policy. ZAKARIA: And did you feel like the world changed, did you change, or did you just go into Treasury as an impartial civil servant?

GEITHNER: I definitely went in as sort of a non-political civil servant, definitely. And I think mostly what happened is the American politics changed, and so much of the conservative movement moved very far to the right. And so over time, I felt more comfortable in the approach to policy that President Clinton and President Obama embraced.

ZAKARIA: You were not -- you know, you're not the star student, you were not -- you weren't even particularly good at economics, though you did well. What do you think explains your trajectory or success?

GEITHNER: I'm sure it's inexplicable.

(LAUGHTER)

You know, I grew up overseas. It's an interesting way to watch your country and learn about your country looking at it from outside, and I could see the huge effect America had on the world, mostly for goods sometimes. Sometimes not so much. And I wanted to have a chance to play a role in affecting the choices America made and that's what drew me in to public life, but I didn't go in, you know, as a banker, an economist or a lawyer in the classic ways.

ZAKARIA (voice-over): He also went against convention when he interviewed for the job as Treasury secretary. He says he urged then- Senator Obama not to choose him. His mentor, Robert Rubin, the Treasury secretary under President Clinton, spoke to Obama.

(On camera): And Robert Rubin told the president that you were inarticulate, and in his job interview, the president says to you, Rubin says you're inarticulate. What do you have to say about this? And you say, he's right and it's worse than you think.

GEITHNER: It was. It was. I didn't ever have high expectations that there was a way to make what was necessary understandable.

ZAKARIA (voice-over): Geithner felt he did not have a reassuring presence, something the country needed from the person in charge of its finances. He was president of the New York Fed when Lehman Brothers collapsed. He was a political albatross, Geithner told Obama. There were better people for the job. Why he ultimately took the job, it didn't take long for Geithner to feel conflicted.

On his third full day as secretary, he was walking into his first one-on-one meeting with the president when a Democratic operative stopped him, handed him talking points, and told him he was going to denounce executive compensation to the press.

(On camera): And you looked at it, rather, and said, I'm not saying any of this, the talking point (INAUDIBLE), so the president said what he was going to say, and as you say, I watched uncomfortably. Why were you uncomfortable about criticizing excessive executive compensation?

GEITHNER: It wasn't that I was -- uncomfortable criticizing and I did criticize it. But at that point I believe that what my job was, my responsibility was to try to get the economy growing again and to try to make sure we had a system, financial system that would allow that to happen, rather keep continuing to crush the economy. I felt like that was my responsibility, my principal responsibility, my comparative advantage, and I wasn't going to be able to help much in trying to ease the public anger, the understandable public anger because of the tragic damage of the crisis.

And I was -- I was sitting next to the president of the United States, you know, a very talented order, and I felt like he would be better doing that than me.

ZAKARIA (voice-over): In the end, Geithner suggests that he was never able to make the case and lost the American public.

(On camera): Do you feel like people would never understand this, that you're stuck with this image of having been the guy who bailed out the banks?

GEITHNER: I don't know that you can ever change that perspective because the core of what you need to do in this crisis is just going to be -- is going to look unfair, and how can you convince people? It could have been worse. You know, Americans had no memory of the Great Depression. It's hard to -- you know, Barney Franks said famously once it's hard to run for office on the platform that things could have been worse, hard to convince people. So those two things make it hard.

But the reason I wrote this book is because I thought it would be fair to give people a better feel for why we made the choices we made, and they don't necessarily need to agree with us.

ZAKARIA: Up next, why Geithner and his boss, President Obama, felt that baling out the bankers was the right thing to do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAKARIA: And we are back with more of my conversation with former Treasury secretary, Tim Geithner.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAKARIA (on camera): So the strategy that you adopted has often been criticized, it was criticized at the time and it's criticized in retrospect, as baling out Wall Street at the expense of main street. What do you say?

GEITHNER: It's a common perception, and it's a completely understandable perception, because what you have to do to protect the economy, the country, the average person running a business or just trying to keep their job in a classical financial panic feels deeply unfair. It's completely counter-intuitive, and that's because the central imperative then is to make sure you prevent the collapse of the system.

You keep the lights on. You know, think of the banking system -- we all like to think of it this way but think of it as the --as the power grid. It's like a vital, essential thing, and what you saw in the Great Depression and you saw in countries since then is that if you let panic escalate and that fire burn too strong, it's devastating.

You know unemployment in the Great Depression went to 25 percent. It fell by 25 percent. It took like a decade to begin the heal the damage. So the counter-intuitive thing, what feels really unfair but what's essential in a classic panic is you have to act incredibly aggressively to make sure you prevent that loss of savings and that damage to the -- to the power grid.

ZAKARIA (voice-over): Geithner understands the outrage of the moral hazard fundamentalist, as he calls them. Some people even wanted Old Testament vengeance against the rich bankers who set the financial fire of 2008. Instead, according to some, the arsonists got bailouts, but Geithner says don't mistake this as sympathy toward the bankers.

GEITHNER: We didn't do it because we had any interest in protecting people on Wall Street for the errors of their mistakes. We did it to make sure, because it was the only way we could protect the average person from mass unemployment.

ZAKARIA: Still, Geithner acknowledges, that a conflicted Obama administration never mastered the politics, never learned to adeptly navigate the populist anger. And if the American public felt Washington was coddling Wall Street, Geithner knew he was seen as the coddler-in-chief. This perception was solidified when Geithner told the president that he didn't believe they could stop AIG from paying out $165 million in bonuses after the government had rescued the insurance giant from bankruptcy.

(On camera): Somebody like Elizabeth Warren says that if you look at the Great Depression, FDR was much tougher on the banks and much tougher on creditors in general. That you guys were -- even within the -- understanding that you had to save the financial system, you could have been tougher on the banks.

GEITHNER: You know, I have a lot of respect for her and I listened to that perspective, but I think it's a deeply mistaken perspective on what it takes in a crisis. And you wouldn't want to go back and look at the Great Depression and try to replicate that outcome for the average person. What we did is try to go make sure we put as much financial force directly into the American economy to offset the collapse and demand tax cuts, unemployment benefits, the scale of that assistance we did was larger than what Roosevelt did in relative terms.

To the great credit of the president and the people who supported him on the Congress, that was massive in its overall capacity. Now ultimately, we would have liked it to have been longer, sustained longer and larger, but at the beginning it was larger than what Roosevelt did in relative terms for exactly the reasons anybody would want.

ZAKARIA (voice-over): Larger than what FDR did, but large enough? Geithner writes in stress test that it sometimes felt like they were fighting World War III with General Washington's army. And yet, Geithner says, the United States is almost on the road to recovery.

GEITHNER: I think it's a much stronger economy today even than it was in the years before the crisis because that was a kind of a bubbly, frothy economy at that point. And I think in many ways the basic collective capacity (INAUDIBLE) in the American economy, our great strengths, are intact and very strong today.

ZAKARIA (on camera): So critics would argue that this is, would say that this is the weakest recovery since the Great Depression, so in 60 or 70 years, that much of that weakness has to do the "Wall Street Journal" editorializes often, because of all the burdens that the Obama administration has put on it. Regulatory burdens from Obamacare, from Dodd-Franks, the re-regulation of the financial industry. What do you say to them?

GEITHNER: We definitely brought some substantial changes to the economics of the financial system. And those were disruptive, and they definitely changed the economics. But that was a necessary just thing to do. And if you look at the American economy today, you're going to see it gradually strengthen the economy, and we should see not just unemployment fall further, but we should see income growth improve for a broader faction of Americans.

And that's, again, I believe because we adopted a dramatically different strategy into our crisis that had been the pattern of governments, really, across decades and decades.

ZAKARIA (voice-over): As for his own legacy, that will likely be judged on how the new post-crisis system, the one he helped create, withstands the next crisis.

For now, Geithner, who left public office in 2013, is president of Warburg Pincus, a private equity firm. As to what his future holds beyond that? Well, he's pretty clear of what he doesn't want to do.

(On camera): You're out of the spotlight. Do you -- if the Fed job came up six years from now, would you take it?

GEITHNER: I think I've had my time in public life. I mean, I used to tell the president this, we're a nation of 300 people --

ZAKARIA: Three hundred million.

GEITHNER: Excuse me, 300 million people.

(LAUGHTER)

And I said like I've had more than my share of consequential jobs in public life.

ZAKARIA: Tim Geithner, pleasure to have you.

GEITHNER: Nice to see you.

ZAKARIA (voice-over): The American economy may not be completely out of the woods yet, but keep in mind that the United States financial system has recovered better than Europe's, for instance. Unemployment in the Eurozone still hovers around 12 percent. That's higher than at the peak of the American recession.

As for that unpopular federal bailout, it turns out that U.S. taxpayers have actually made a $30 billion profit, according to a Pro Publica estimate.

Geithner has suffered some political damage, but billionaire investor Warren Buffett calls him one of the heroes of the economic Pearl Harbor that was the financial crisis.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, have you ever wanted to erase parts of your past? Well, a court in Europe has just granted permission for people to do just that to the delight of some and the horror of others. I'll explain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment. Do you have something in your past that you would rather forget? A youthful indiscretion that led to a run-in with the police, perhaps? A debt that you forgot to pay, maybe? How about a quickie marriage one night in Vegas that ended in a quickie divorce?

In the Internet age, these are the types of things that can now live forever. Except, perhaps, if you live in the European Union.

Let me explain. This week the EU's highest court decided that parts of your past have a right to be forgotten on the Internet. It is a ruling that effectively censor search engines like Google.

Here's how it happened. A Spanish man filed a complaint against Google because searchers of his name turned up links to a 1998 newspaper notice that mentioned some debts. He argued that this old now irrelevant information infringe on both dignity and his privacy. And on Tuesday, the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice agreed. Google has to stop linking to the Spaniard's property notice, the court said.

Under the right to be forgotten principle, if you live in one of the EU's 20-member states, you will soon be able to remove links to your past. When you make a deletion request to the search engines and other content controllers, you have to meet the bar that the court set, that the information is inadequate, irrelevant or outdated. Rules are different if you are a public figure or if the information is in the public interest. The landmark announcement has pleased privacy activists, but it has left critics reeling that it is a violation of free speech. As for Google, it found the ruling disappointing and is analyzing its implications.

It could be very expensive for Internet companies. For now it mostly affects just Google. The search engine accounts for 90 percent of Web searches in the European Union.

How it will all work in practice still needs to be ironed out. The "Wall Street Journal" report said Google has since received requests from a politician wanting to remove articles about his behavior in office and from a doctor seeking to delete online reviews. Another aspect of this to consider, we have Edward Snowden to thank for this in similar rulings. The E.U. is currently overhauling its data protection laws inspired partly by Snowden's revelations of America's extensive electronic spine program. The real problem here is this. The culling of information likely cannot all be done by humans. Remember, Google executes nearly 12 billion searches a month, and Cannon (ph) algorithm really finds the delicate balance between personal privacy and the public interest between what's inconvenient and what's inaccurate? I would think not. Now, European courts have historically favored privacy rights while American stand to hold the First Amendment as sacrosanct, and American companies advocate for self-regulation, generally, but Americans are concerned, too. 86 percent of Americans have taken measures to mask their digital footprints, according to the Pew research center. So we will have to come up with some rules of the road to make people feel secure about their privacy, but let's make sure that we don't undermine and erode the things that have made the Internet such an amazing transforming feature of modern life, its universality and its openness. We'll link to this segment on our Website. If you are in the E.U., please do not request to have it deleted.

Next on GPS, look up. It is a bird, it's a plane. No, it is a drone. The somewhat scary and ubiquitous future of drones, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAKARIA: A week ago today, the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei had a very important photo-op with a drone. An Iranian drone. With great glee and great fanfare, the Persian nation announced that it had copied that American drone that crashed in Iran in 2011 and official Iranian news report said the new drones would be able to attack U.S. warships. Whether Iran is bluffing or not remains a question. But the fear of the future of drones is quite real. It is the subject of a new book by well-known former U.S. terror official, Richard Clarke. The book "Sting of the Drone" is fictional. But it is inspired by real life. He joined me to talk about the present and future of these killing machines. Richard Clark, pleasure to have you on.

RICHARD CLARKE, AUTHOR, "AGAINST ALL ENEMIES: INSIDE AMERICA'S WAR ON TERROR": It's good to be here. ZAKARIA: So your book begins or has a central aspect, a drone strike, and then the sense of vengeance that one of the people who was associated with it, one of the targets who survives, ends up having. It raises this fundamental question that we deal with in Yemen and Pakistan and Afghanistan. Are the drone strikes worth it? Or is the sense of rage, outrage, the collateral casualties, is that all - does that all outweigh the benefit of getting this one guy?

CLARKE: No, we began the drone program - the lethal drone program to get one guy - bin Laden. That didn't work. But the idea was to have a very restricted list of very senior people. And it did kind of work for that. And we had nothing else that worked. And so, if you put yourself into the mind of the counterterrorism official in the novel or in reality, the counterterrorism official feels the weight of the world on his or her shoulders. They have to stop the next attack, they have to save the lives of Americans. And they look at their quiver and there are very few arrows, very few arrows that work. And the drones did. So there begins to be a seduction, an addiction. Will that work? Well, it worked to kill him. And let's do it some more. Well, maybe we should broaden the definition of who we're going to kill. And then you end up, as we are today, having killed probably 2500 people in five countries. And they all have friend. They all have family, they all have tribe. And when a program gets that big, it also becomes a phenomenon in and of itself. And so you get protests in the street about the drone program.

ZAKARIA: You raise another issue in the book, which, again, seems to me part of a very interesting real-life discussion. The whole book is like that, but one that struck me, in your version, the terrorist organizations are becoming drug cartels and the drug cartels are becoming terrorist organizations that, you know, partly begun as a necessary way of financing because the U.S. and other allies have essentially cut off terrorist financing, so effectively, the only way to make money is to go into the drug trade, opium in Afghanistan. How real is that?

CLARKE: No, that's very real, and it's Hizbollah as well. And it's gangs and cartels and tribes in Afghanistan and Pakistan that affiliate with al Qaeda, affiliate with the Taliban. They're making hundreds of millions of dollars and stashing it in Dubai and other places. So it's both terrorists financing themselves and drug cartels engaging in associations with terrorists.

ZAKARIA: You talk about the fact that this technology is going to be more widely available, and so we better be careful. Give us a sense. We've heard this for a while. How close are we to China in significant ways using drones?

CLARKE: China is using drones today, they're just not killing people with them. They have a drone that looks remarkably like the Predator, and I suspect it's probably based on Predator drawings that they hacked and stole, as they do so often. There are probably 40 nations now that have drones. Three that I know of have used them in lethal operations.

ZAKARIA: So, these are armed drones now? CLARKE: Well, so there are three countries that have used armed drones, that's Russia, the United States and Israel. There are 40- something countries that have drones that could easily put weapons on them. And now there are companies and local governments, and in the United States it's become a real issue because there are thousands of people who have bought drones and want to use them for real estate purposes and advertising purposes, and the government rule say you can't fly above 400 feet. And yet they are. And one of them almost ran into an airline in Florida. So, we're going to see drones more and more part of our everyday life as we go forward.

ZAKARIA: So we need clearly rules about surveillance drones, and that's a national issue, my guess is, but at an international level, do you think we could come up with some kind of international treaty that sets out exactly what the rights and responsibilities are? Otherwise, as you point out, we have killed 2,500 people in five countries without any kind of congressional declaration of war, without even the invocation of some kind of presidential war power.

CLARKE: Well, if we establish some international norm and said, you can do this, but you can't do that. If we were the leader of that effort, it would be rather ironic because we are the only ones who would have violated those international norms.

ZAKARIA: Mr. Clark, pleasure to have you on.

CLARKE: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, just who are the Chinese and what are their ambitions? That nation of more than 1.3 billion people is certainly not monolithic. We will take you inside China with the New Yorkers Evan Osnos when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAKARIA: What are the Chinese people really like? Do they adhere to all the stereotypes put on them by the West? Are they steadfast and loyal to the Communist Party? Are they either poor farmers or rich businesspeople with very few in between? And are they really good at math? Of course, not, but my next guest Evan Osnos takes me much deeper into just who today's Chinese really are, what their dreams are. It's his new book "Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China." Osnos was the "New Yorker's" China correspondent for years. He's now based in Washington for the same magazine. Evan, you say that it's actually very easy to understand China in a sense if you can imagine the Gilded Age in America?

EVAN OSNOS: It's true. If you make a comparison to the United States experience, we're living right now through - American about 1890 - think about it. You know, we were coming out of the Civil War which in China's case means the Cultural Revolution, means pulling the country back together again. And one of the things you are also doing was building the country up. You know, we laid railroad tracks across the United States. China, as we know, has built more high-speed rail than the rest of the world combined. So, there is this incredible sense of what's possible. But at the same time, that means that you're generating huge amounts of wealth and it's going off into some people's hands and not into others.

ZAKARIA: And the real story of your book is the rise of Chinese individualism?

OSNOS: Yeah?

ZAKARIA: Right?

OSNOS: Yeah, that's right. I mean what interested me most was the China that I had always studied, for instance, in the United States and when I went over there, everything that I've read was about these broad strokes, about economic change and about the political forces, about one-fifth of the humanity and what was happening to them. And when you got onto the ground, what you discovered was that people had the kind of private intimate perceptual changes in their lives that really mattered to them.

ZAKARIA: And a lot of times the way they're trying to define themselves, be individuals is to get rich. And you talk a lot about that.

OSNOS: There's been this interesting progression. The first thing people wanted to do, of course, was to get rich. That's the most basic natural human instinct in the case when people have been living in poverty. As they got wealthier, what they discovered was, they needed to know who was setting the rules. They needed to understand about politics and policy, and that set off a kind of - a kind of search for information. And that's why you've seen this incredible creation of investigative agency over the last 20 years. There is great journalists who are doing independent work, and that, of course, on the Web. But then the third ...

ZAKARIA: But explain that. Because people think of China as a closed society with a closed media, but you point out actually, as long as you're not talking about kind of high politics, which is the legitimacy of the Communist Party, there is lots of journalism going on in China.

OSNOS: There is a huge amount of journalism going on. I wrote about a woman named Hu Shuli, she is the editor of a magazine called "Caijing." And when she began, she figured out that there was this enormous story that wasn't being covered. It was about the economy, who was winning and who was losing, and if she could figure out how to write these stories, just carefully enough, that she could get away with it. And there's a term in Chinese, which is playing edge ball, which is hitting the ball, the Ping-Pong ball just the edge of the table, so you win the point without missing the table entirely. And what she figured out was that if those values could be transmitted to a whole generation of young Chinese journalists, that's transformative. And so you see it all over the placed. People who have figured out that I can get away with this much, without getting myself into trouble.

ZAKARIA: One thing I'm struck by the Chinese when I go there, and, of course, this is episodic and urban experiences, by and large, is honestly, how materialistic the culture has become. How individualistic it is, how materialistic, how obsessed with Western brands, for example. If you go to the National Museum in in Beijing you'll only see foreigners, but if you go to the Louis Vuitton store, it's all Chinese. You wrote about Confucianism and the revival of Confucianism. How does this work? Is there now a kind of feeling that maybe we've overdosed on materialism?

OSNOS: There is. There's been a really remarkable shift over the last few years. When you sat around at the dinner table with successful Chinese middle class strivers ten- five years ago, for instance, everybody wanted to talk about real estate or they would talk about travel, where they were going. Today what they are talking about is, who is your guru, who is that that you are pursuing? What are you reading these days? There is a recognition that beyond the most basic material satisfaction, there are these bigger questions, these deeper questions. In the book I call it the quest for faith. Look, in China today there is as many Christians as there are members of the Communist Party. There is this enormous sense that the country is trying to define what its values are. What do we believe in as individuals and collectively as a society? And that's the next frontier, it's how is the Chinese government, you know, accommodate, this extraordinary search for ultimately what it means to be Chinese.

ZAKARIA: So, what does all this leave you thinking about China, the Chinese? You know, in America we have a tendency to get interested in countries or the world only if we get scared. You know, and this Ambrose Bierce's "Devil's Dictionary" says "War is god's way of teaching Americans geography." When you look at China, do you say to Americans, you know, this is a country that is more worrying, scarier, different, what?

OSNOS: What I am most struck by is that there is a gap between what's going on at the elite political level, the conversation between the United States and China, which, after all, is getting tense. It's about the possibility for conflict, for instance, over territory. If you get onto the ground and you move into a Chinese neighborhood and you live there for a long time and you talk to people, you find out that the things that they talk about are very similar to the things we talk about in the United States. The gap in opportunity, the ability to educate your children and to be able to get your parents health care, for instance. And what's amazing is how similar our lives in the United States and China are becoming at the very moment that our governments are finding it more difficult to talk to each other. So my goal, ultimately, and one of the reasons I've lived there for so long, is to try to help people understand what it actually feels like to be Chinese because it's not as foreign as you might think.

ZAKARIA: And in order to do that, you have to read this book. Evan Osnos, thank you so much.

Up next, what is the least anti-Semitic place in the Middle East? Jordan? Egypt? The Palestinian territories? We will tell you on the other side of the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAKARIA: The Anti-Defamation League, an organization that fights anti-Semitism, released results this week of a ground-breaking study that asked respondents in more than 100 countries about their views of Jews and Judaism. It estimated that 26 percent harbored anti-Semitic views. In the Middle East and North Africa, that number was more like 74 percent. That brings me to my question of the week. What is the least anti-Semitic place in the Middle East and North Africa, according to the new ADL poll? A, the Palestinian territories, b, Jordan, c, Iran, D, Egypt. Stay tuned and we will tell you the correct answer. This week's book of the week is Timothy Geithner's book "Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crisis." It is surprisingly frank, surprisingly well written, and all in all, the most intelligent defense of the Obama administration's handling of the financial crisis. It's also a very human account of someone at the highest levels of government in a time of extreme crisis. And now for the last look. Here at GPS we love deep data dives. We also revel in the fact that America continues to be the melting pot that it has always been. So we were interested to see a piece on Slate.com this week analyzing the most common languages spoken in each state using U.S. Census data. This first map is predictable. Other than English, Spanish is the most spoken language in almost all U.S. states. But watch what happens when you remove Spanish from the equation. Now there is the melting pot. In Michigan, Arabic clocks in as the third most commonly spoken language. In Minnesota, it's Hmong. In Oregon, it's Russian. It's Vietnamese in four states, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Washington. It's a Filipino language called Tagalog in Hawaii, California and Nevada. In four states, it's Native American languages, it's French in 11 states and in 16 states it's German.

If you're surprised at that number, according to recent Census measures of countries of ancestry, people of German heritage outnumber all other groups in the United States, even Irish. Remember, until the First World War by some accounts, German was the second most widely spoken language in all of the United States. And that tradition lingers, I suppose. We have a link on our Web site to the Slate article. The author Ben Blatt has other cool maps on the same page. Check it out.

The correct answer to our "GPS Challenge" question was C. Iran was the least anti-Semitic country in the Middle East and North Africa. The Persian nation is 56 percent anti-Semitic, which is high, but as I say, the least of all the rest. The Palestinian territories were the most in the area and the world coming in at 93 percent. A close second, Iraq at 92 percent. As for the least anti-Semitic country in the world, apparently it is Laos.

One programming note before we go, if you haven't had enough of me, I will be on John Oliver's great new show "Last Week Tonight" on HBO airing Sunday here in the United States. Tune in. Thanks to all of you for being a part of my program this week. I will see you next week.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. I'm Erin McPike and here are the big stories we're following this hour. May of those raging fires in southern California could be completely contained by the end of the day. Four are still spreading in San Diego County, but cooler temperatures and high humidity are helping firefighters make tremendous progress battling the flames and thus allowing many evacuees to return home today. Firefighters say they're going to do as much as they can while conditions are good.

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CAPT. CARLOS GUERRERO, GLENDALE CITY FIRE DEPT.: We have crews still in all areas of this fire that are cleaning up areas where there is still some hot spots. We had some infrared flyovers that we're mapping out as far as the areas of greatest concern. Obviously the winds can pick up at any moment, and what we want to do is try to get it while the winds are calming down.

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MCPIKE: AT&T is meeting with DirecTV today on a potential merger. According to a person with direct knowledge of the meeting, that deal could be announced as early as this afternoon. And if it's approved, AT&T will buy DirecTV for about $50 billion. This comes a few months after another big telecom deal when Comcast announced it was buying Time Warner cable. I'm Erin McPike in Washington. "Reliable Sources" starts right now.