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FAREED ZAKARIA GPS

Interview With Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif; Interview With China's Ambassador To The U.S., Cui Tiankai. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired February 7, 2021 - 10:00   ET

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


[10:00:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Accountability and no attempt by the Republican Party to stop these insane lies that have taken root in their party. Witness the support this week by the House Republican for bigot and conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene, the congresswoman from Georgia. If there's no effort at accountability, this is not going to be the end of MAGA terrorism. This will only be the beginning.

Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us. "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" starts right now.

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAKARIA (voice-over): Today on the show.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America is back. Diplomacy is back.

ZAKARIA: America's adversaries react to President Biden.

Two of the largest challenges facing the new administration are, what to do about ever-increasing competition from Beijing and how to handle Tehran's nuclear ambitions. I'll have exclusive conversations with Iran's Foreign minister Javad Zarif and China's ambassador to Washington, Cui Tiankai.

Also, the military in Myanmar consummates another coup. What is behind the arrest of Noble Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi? I will explain.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAKARIA: But first here's my take.

We're all wondering how the Republican Party, the party of Abraham Lincoln, got to the point that it has an elected member of Congress, Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has suggested Nancy Pelosi could be executed for treason, cast doubts on the events of 9/11 and speculated that a Jewish cabal used lasers to start California's wild fires? The answer is in plain sight. The continual accommodation of extremism

by the party's leaders. This week the Republican Congressional Caucus declined to censure Greene in any way. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy pretended not to even know what QAnon was. In the Senate Mitch McConnell has finally drawn the line, describing Greene's views as looney. But it is too little, too late. The party has been encouraging looney views for years.

Today we rightly applaud Mitt Romney for his political courage, but it's worth recalling that when he was running for president in 2012, he craved Donald Trump's endorsement. When he got it, he gushed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): There are some things that you just can't imagine happening in your life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAKARIA: Later that year, Romney tacitly endorsed Trump's most noxious lie, birtherism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: No one has ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAKARIA: The real big lie at the heart of the modern Republican Party, though, is about public policy, not conspiracy theories. Since the 1930s, Republicans promised their voters the repeal of FDR's New Deal. When the next Republican president Dwight Eisenhower did nothing of the sort, the modern conservative movement emerged, furiously branding Ike a traitor. When LBJ enacted the Great Society, conservatives pledged that once elected, they would tear it all down and never did.

Ronald Reagan launched his political career by denouncing Medicare as a direct path to socialism. If passed, he famously warned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, 40TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE: You and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it once was like in America when men were free.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAKARIA: Of course, as president for eight years, Reagan left Medicare largely intact and actually ended up expanding the program.

In the early 1990s, House leader Newt Gingrich doubled down on a rhetoric of radicalism and extremism. He promised revolution and described political opponents as the embodiment of evil who win only because they lie and cheat. E.J. Dionne has been described the toxic results of this strategy as "the politics of disappointment and betrayal."

Ted Cruz follows the same tragedy today still. His 2016 platform included promises to repeal Obamacare, abolish the IRS and balance the budget, plans that he knew could never get enacted. But they were just the right red meat for the base. He treats his supporters like cannon fodder, whipping them into hysteria and sending them into battle.

[10:05:00]

The Republican Party endlessly crowed about repealing and replacing Obamacare, only to come to power without any viable plan and then quickly accommodated itself to the reality it had vowed to overturn.

This entire decades long strategy has led millions of Republicans to feel cheated and lied to by their leaders, creating an atmosphere of paranoia and suspicion toward anyone who is not utterly extreme. It also feeds the notion that true conservatism fails because of some kind of treason, betrayal or collusion. It is a short and direct line from the tactics of Newt Gingrich to the January 6th Capitol riot.

If you're looking for an alternative path for a conservative leader, one who even knows how to appeal to populist and nationalist settlement, look at British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Johnson who initially and badly bungled COVID-19 is now tackling the pandemic with much greater seriousness, and he has gradually emerged as the most consequential conservative politician since Margaret Thatcher.

He has been slowly but surely reshaping his party to make it more compatible with modern-day Britain. His Cabinet is remarkably diverse with two of the three most powerful positions filled by Asian Britons. Describing his plans for big spending during the pandemic and after, Johnson admits --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It sounds like a new deal. And all I can say is if that is so then that is how it's meant to sound and how it's meant to be because that is what the times demand. A government that is powerful and determined, and that puts its arms around people at a time of crisis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAKARIA: He adds to these innovations more traditional Thatcher-like ideas like efficient government, free trade and a moral foreign policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: We will build, build, build. Build back better, build back greener, build back faster.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAKARIA: If Republicans are searching for a conservatism that can work in the modern era, they should first stop lying to their own voters. Then they could look to examples like Britain's to bring their party into the world of facts and reality.

Go to CNN.com/fareed for a link to my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.

There is breaking news this morning that I want to get to swiftly with our first guest.

Today in Tehran, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared that if the West wants Iran to rejoin the nuclear deal, all sanctions will need to be lifted. For its part, the White House has said that Iran needs to come back into compliance with the deal as a first step.

So both sides have set the bar high for a resumption of talks or at least the resumption of the deal. What happens next?

Joining me is Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

Welcome, sir. And let me start with that.

All sanctions have to be lifted. The national security adviser on this program said Iran first needs to come into compliance. Where do we go from here?

JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, good morning to you. And it's good to be with you again.

It is very clear. It was the United States that left the deal. It was the United States that violated the deal. It was the United States that punished any country that remained respectful and compliant with the deal. So it is for the United States to return to the deal, to implement its obligations.

Iran never left the deal. Iran is in the deal. Iran has reduced some of its commitments in line with the deal. The way to go back to full compliance on the part of Iran is for the United States, which has totally left the deal, to come back and implement its obligations.

Now, it's clear, it's a decision that President Biden and his advisers need to take. Whether they want to break with the failed policies of President Trump or whether they want to build on his failures. If they want to build on his failures, they will only get failure as a result.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you something that -- am I reading this correctly? There have been demands in the past that in addition to the United States coming back into the deal, Iran should be compensated for the U.S. withdraw.

Is it fair to read the Hamane statement as saying, no, there are -- the demand for compensation is not live anymore.

[10:10:00]

The only issue is that the United States needs to waive the sanctions?

ZARIF: Well, the the United States needs to lift the sanctions, not waive them. The U.S. needs to remove the sanctions. And compensation was never a pre-condition.

We said that we will discuss that once the United States is back in the deal, and that is for a very clear reason.

The deal or any international agreement is not a revolving door. They cannot simply come and go as they please. So the United States must make it clear and must give guarantees to Iran and other members of the deal that the behavior of President Trump will not be repeated.

Because the international community has suffered enough from the lawlessness of somebody who acts on a whim. You've seen what has happened in the United States, you've seen what has happened in Congress. The people of Iran have felt that for four very, very long years. We're not prepared to feel that again.

ZAKARIA: Your ambassador to the United Nations said that the window is closing for Iran to rejoin the deal. Can you give me a timeline, what does that mean? How long is Iran willing to wait before there is an even more substantial departure from the deal?

ZARIF: Well, we have a statutory requirement to reduce the presence of U.N. inspectors, not to simply -- not to completely finish it but to reduce the presence of U.N. inspectors on somewhere around February 21st. I think what will happen then is that you will not see the additional protocol implemented in Iran.

That doesn't mean the window is fully shut because if the United States and its partners return to the deal, return to full compliance, Iran will reverse its actions. All the actions we are taking are reversible.

But, obviously, it would be much simpler if the United States decided to make good on its commitments earlier rather than later.

And it is good for the United States' reputation. Because President Trump not only destroyed the reputation of the United States domestically but he destroyed the reputation of the United States internationally. So the sooner the current administration returns to international obligations, the sooner it can start rebuilding its reputation across the globe.

ZAKARIA: The national security adviser on this program said that if the deal were to be put back in place immediately the Biden Administration would want to start negotiating with Iran about limitations to its ballistic missile program. Is this a possibility?

ZARIF: Well, Jake Sullivan was a part of the negotiating team that negotiated this deal. He should know better that we discussed those issues.

And it was because of the United States' inability to address its own military to our region, hundreds of billions of dollars of military sales to our region going to the countries that are committing genocide and war crimes in Yemen and elsewhere, that they could not address these issues. So we agreed on what to deal with and what not to deal with.

The United States cannot base its policy on what's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable. We decided on these issues.

The United States, as I said, should either break up with the past failures of President Trump or try to build on it. If they try to build on it, they cannot build anything other than failure.

ZAKARIA: Just very quickly, though. So is the ballistic missile issue non-negotiable, it's a nonstarter?

ZARIF: The entire nuclear deal is non-negotiable because it was fully negotiated. We need to implement something that we negotiated; we do not buy the horse twice.

You put yourselves in our shoes. You agreed to a deal, you agreed to give and take. You agreed to sacrifice certain demands that you had because you agreed not to deal with certain issues.

For instance, we agreed that the limitations on arms purchases and deliveries for Iran would last for another five years, we just ended in October. That cannot be reinvented or renegotiated. The time is gone. We waited for five years.

The United States did not implement the deal but we did implement the deal, and we did fulfill our promises and we are going to fulfill our promises again if the United States fulfills its promises.

[10:15:03]

Let's start with something that we agree. We agreed on the JCPOA, the United States should start making good on its promises that it violated for very, very long year for Iranians.

You know that the Iranians were deprived of food and medicine during Trump administration, despite all the lies that they told American people.

ZAKARIA: Stay with us -- stay with us, Foreign Minister.

Next up, Iran versus Saudi Arabia, one of the most bitter rivalries on the world stage. President Trump's first foreign trip was to Saudi Arabia. By contrast the Biden administration announced this week it was ending support for the Saudi-led military offensive in Yemen in which Iran has backed the anti-Saudi forces.

I will ask the Foreign Minister for his reaction to that move.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:20:23]

ZAKARIA: We are back with Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

Mr. Foreign Minister, let me ask you about the announcement the Biden administration made, that it was ending arms sales that were -- to Saudi Arabia relating to the Yemen war. Do you think that -- can you hear me, Foreign Minister? Can you hear me, Foreign Minister? I think we have a technical problem.

ZARIF: I can't hear you.

ZAKARIA: Not yet? All right. We will get this fixed. We will take a short break and come right back to you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAKARIA: And we are back with Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

Mr. Foreign Minister, I wanted to know, do you think the Biden administration's decision to stop funding -- to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia relating to the Yemen war will have the -- does it produce the opportunity to end the war? What needs to happen next?

ZARIF: I certainly hope that it does because President Trump made the United States an accomplice in a lot of crimes the Saudis committed in Yemen.

Now, let me tell you that Iran in April of 2015 with the knowledge of the United States, with the knowledge of Secretary Kerry, offered a four-point peace plan for Yemen. An immediate end to war, immediate humanitarian assistance, broad-based discussion among Yemenis, and establishment of a broad-based representative, inclusive government in Yemen.

That offer still stands and we are prepared to work with the United Nations Special Envoy Martin Griffith who is right now in Iran, and I'll be seeing him tomorrow and I will explain this to him. The reason that offer did not fly was that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia believed and he informed the United States at that time that they could win in three weeks. We're talking about April 2015.

We are getting to the sixth year, and they are not even any closer to winning. So it's best for the United States to show some tough love to its allies and tell them to stop this atrocity. They have never been in Yemen. People have tried for the past 1,000 years.

[10:25:04]

Outsiders have tried to conquer Yemen and they have failed. Saudi Arabia will fail, too. They should not look for an accomplice. They should not look for a culprit. The culprit is the attempt to use force against a people of a country in their own country.

We are prepared to do everything we can to bring this worst humanitarian catastrophe in many years to a close, and we are prepared to work with the United Nations and I will continue tomorrow with Martin Griffith.

ZAKARIA: Foreign Minister, before I let you go, I want to ask you one question. And we don't have a lot of time, so I'm going to ask you to indulge me and give me a brief reaction.

The Abraham Accords do seem to suggest that the new alignment in the Middle East is largely, one, a raid against Iran. Israel and the Gulf Arab states seem to be making common chorus in an anti-Iranian alliance. Doesn't that put you in an extraordinarily weak position?

ZARIF: It doesn't because it shows that our neighbors have not learned the lesson that they cannot purchase security from outside. They tried to purchase security from Saddam Hussein. They failed. And Saddam Hussein used the weapons that they gave him against themselves. They then tried to buy security from President Trump and President Trump only milked them.

Israelis are going to be far worse than these two. So I think the best way for them is to come to the region. The resolution of the problems in our region should emanate from our own region and Iran stands ready to work with them, since you wanted a short reply.

ZAKARIA: I realize I have a little bit of time, so I'm going to press you on the one issue I wanted to clarify, which is whatever the sequence, let us say that the U.S. and Iran do come back into compliance both with the JCPOA, the Iran deal, are you saying that even then you are unwilling to discuss any limitations on ballistic missile or once there is a return -- this is just a matter of sequence. Once there is a return, you will talk about ballistic missiles. And if you won't, can you explain why?

ZARIF: Let me tell you very clearly, the JCPOA was negotiated. It cannot be renegotiated. But if you want to talk about weapons, you have to look at the statistics. Saudi Arabia last year spent over $70 billion on military procurements. United Arab Emirates which is -- with an indigenous population of $1.5 million spent close to $22 billion. I'm quoting SIPRI numbers.

Iran's total military expenditure with over a million soldiers in uniform was about $10 billion to $11 billion. So are they prepared to bring down their weapon expenditures or is the United States prepared to stop selling a quarter of the global arms sales to our region?

Our region is a powder cake. The United States should not talk about Iran's defense. The United States should talk about all these weapons that they are sending to our region and they are being used against innocent children in Yemen. So this is the question that needs to be asked, not to ask Iran about limiting its very limited defense expenditure.

ZAKARIA: Foreign Minister, always good to have you on. Thank you for coming on.

ZARIF: Thank you for having me.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, a rare opportunity to hear China's side of the story from a top official, Beijing's long-time ambassador to Washington Cui Tiankai joins me exclusively when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:32:59]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To confront China's economic abuses, counter its aggressive course of action, to push back on China's attack on human rights, intellectual property and global governance. But we are ready to work with Beijing when it's America's interest to do so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAKARIA: That was President Biden's message to China as he began to lay out his foreign policy doctrine at the State Department on Thursday.

With me now, Beijing's representative in Washington. Ambassador Cui Tiankai has been China's ambassador to the United States since 2013. He received a master's degree from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in 1987 and has worked his way up through China's Foreign Ministry all the way to the top ever since.

Ambassador Cui, pleasure to have you back on.

AMB. CUI TIANKAI, CHINA'S AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Good morning, Fareed. So nice to see you.

ZAKARIA: So, we had that statement of President Biden in the speech. We also had an exchange of readouts of descriptions of phone call that took place between America's top diplomat Tony Blinken and China's diplomat Yang Jiechi.

It all seems pretty tough. And even though the readouts had a lot of more tough language in them, were you expecting a different start to the Biden foreign policy? It seems as though Yang Jiechi, China's top diplomat said that the four years of the Trump administration had been the lowest point in U.S-China relations since the opening to China in the Nixon administration.

Do you think there is a new atmosphere in Washington? Or does it feel to you more like the Biden administration is continuing some of Donald Trump's hardline policies?

CUI: Well, Fareed, I think there a few basic things here. So let me try to make my points one by one.

[10:35:04]

First of all, China's development, China's growth has been made possible by the hard work of the Chinese people and now more than 40 years of reform and opening up. This is a historical fact. To say otherwise is against the facts and certainly not fair to the Chinese people.

Internationally, China always stands for the basic norms coming in international relations as embodied in the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter. We always support most likely institutions, the international system centered on the United Nations including, for instance, WHO, WTO and a number of others. And we already contribute more troops than other permanent members of the Security Council to the U.N. Peacekeeping Operations. We are already contributing a great deal to the global economic worlds and we are ready to do more. For instance, we are working with a number of other countries to confront the current pandemic, to restore economic growth globally.

Now hopefully there is, I believe there is such a need and potential for bilateral relations between China and United States in all these areas, especially vis-a-vis the emerging or already existing global challenges like climate change. For the readout for the phone call yesterday, frankly, my impression is that this readout is still -- it still shows the example of the power rather than the power of the example.

You don't have effective foreign policy just by talking tough or playing tough. This is not a way, not the way, the right way of doing diplomacy. I think there's a current need for good stance of mutual respect. People have to show goodwill and good faith.

Of course, all countries have values and interests to defend. For China, national sovereignty, unity, territory integrating, these are the core values and the core interests we will defend, we will do whatever it takes to defend, no matter who says what.

ZAKARIA: But let me ask you about, you know, in some ways this new, tougher foreign policy which has become a consensus, I mean there are something like 400 pieces of legislation in the House in the United States Congress that are aimed at, in some way, you know standing up to China. This new toughness comes in some part as a response to a new Chinese foreign policy, which has been itself much more aggressive. And you don't have to listen to the United States on this.

If you ask the Australians, they find themselves facing a much more assertive China that is asking that Australian private think tanks do not do research that the Chinese government does not like. You find it when you talk to the Indians who feel that China has made incursions on a disputed border along the Himalayas. You find it in Japan where they think that China has pushed further its claims on the Senkaku Islands in various ways and of course, you find it with Taiwan, Vietnam.

So, this is something that is this sense that China is flexing its muscles is not one just felt in the United States. Is there a reason for this new Chinese foreign policy?

CUI: I don't think that we have an entirely new foreign policy. We have been very consistent in our foreign policy. It's an independent policy for peace. Of course, we will safeguard our sovereignty and independence. There is no doubt about that.

But Fareed, please look at the map. All the issues that you mentioned and some other issues, they are either part of Chinese territory or in places very close to China. So, who is on the offensive? Who is on the defensive? You just have to look at the map. It's all far away from the United States. The fact is whenever you have more involvement by the United States, you have instability anywhere in the world. Look at Middle East. Look at some other place, Latin America. And it's so obvious that when you are sort of rebalancing or pivoting, whatever the word might be, then there is more instability in our region.

(CROSSTALK)

[10:40:00]

ZAKARIA: But Ambassador, if I may just interrupt you for a second, these places may be far from the United States but they're not far from Australia, from India, from Vietnam, from Japan. And I don't take Washington's word for it. All I'm asking is are you listening to your neighbors?

CUI: You see we have more than a dozen neighbors on the land and more neighbors across the sea. And over the course of history, inevitably, there have been disputes among the neighboring countries. This is the same thing anywhere in the world.

But basically, China has never have been able to address these disputes and solve them through dialogue and negotiation. For instance, we concluded treaties and agreement with most of our neighbors on the land about the borders. It's all done by peaceful negotiations.

We still have a couple of them left. But we're ready to work with them, negotiate with them and in the meantime, maintain stability and tranquility in the areas. So, without external involvements, it would be easier and more possible for the neighbors to solve the issues between themselves.

ZAKARIA: When we come back, Secretary of State Pompeo said it, Secretary of State Blinken agrees, China's actions against the Uyghurs constitute a genocide. The Ambassador's reaction when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:45:44]

ZAKARIA: And we are back with China's Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai.

Let me ask you about one of the most contentious issues that is going to confront U.S.-China relations, and that is what is going on in Xinjiang.

You know now President Biden has described it as a genocide, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did so, and the new Secretary of State Tony Blinken, said he agrees with that judgment.

Is there not a way -- I know you've been on this show before and said that this is inaccurate -- is there not a way for China to allow an international group of observers free and total access, interviews with, you know, any and all Uyghur groups that it wants to determine whether or not these claims about a cultural genocide are true?

CUI: I think, Fareed, the fact is, in the last few years, there have been more than 1,200 people, journalists, diplomats, and -- from more than 100 countries. Some of them are Muslim countries. All these foreign visitors have visited Xinjiang in the last few years.

You cannot say they are all not independent. You cannot say they don't have any observation. They have seen the facts on the ground very clearly. Why don't people listen to these people?

And the real threat -- the real threat in East Xinjiang, up until very recent, was very clear. First, the threat of terrorism. There have been thousands of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang. Hurting and even killing thousands of innocent people. People from all ethnic groups. Han people, Uyghur people and others.

So, people have a strong demand that their safety and security should be guaranteed. That's what we have done in the last few years. Now, for the last few years, last three to four years, there has been no single case of terrorist attack. So, people have much better sense of security and safety now.

ZAKARIA: You say that we should listen to independent observers. Of course, it's very hard for journalists to get there. But the BBC had some horrifying reports of labor camps that looked like prison camps and of guards who were engaged in everything from sexual abuse, to rape.

Are you saying, you know -- again, I ask you your response to that, but again, the simplest way to deal with this would be to welcome a group from human rights organizations like Amnesty International or others to come in and make a thorough evaluation because otherwise, you do have independent reports such as exists from the BBC only a week ago.

CUI: Most of their sources are not trustworthy. I have been to Xinjiang myself, more than once in the last few years. I have seen all these things with my own eyes. I even visited some of the vocational training center. It's just like a campus. It's not labor camp. It's campus.

I don't know how the BBC people got all this wrong information or misinformation. But you see if you look at their track record, maybe you should not have total trust of what they say.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about a question that you know keeps coming up, which is was the coronavirus accidentally leaked from a lab in Wuhan?

Are the people making these charges, to be clear, do not have strong evidence, but that's largely because China has not allowed teams of medical researchers to go in and they have not shared data on that.

So let me just ask you this on the -- on the theory that the truth will eventually come out, would you categorically say that from all China's investigations, the coronavirus emerged from a wet market in Wuhan and not from the Wuhan Virology Institute Lab?

[10:50:08]

CUI: I think, when people make accusations, they have to prove these accusations. And to say these things at a time when we're still faced with the pandemic is against the spirit of humanitarianism.

Besides, now an expert group from WHO is working in Wuhan with their Chinese counterparts. They are working very hard. They are trying to look at all the facts. And we are very supportive to their work. And I have also participated in some of the conferences between experts, real experts of our two countries. They are real scientists. They are looking at the whole pandemic from the point of view of scientists, not any politicians.

So, I think people have to be careful not to make groundless accusations.

Also, there have been a number of media reports about early cases in other places in the world. So there is certainly a need for more tracing to be done all over the world in order to really trace down the origin of the virus so the human race could be better prepared when we are faced with another virus again.

So please do not politicize the whole issue. Please let the scientists do their professional job.

ZAKARIA: And will scientists be allowed full access to China from the WHO?

CUI: They're already in Wuhan. They have been in Wuhan for quite a few days. My question is will they be allowed to come here to do the same thing?

ZAKARIA: Ambassador, it is so important for us to hear from you. And we thank you very much for coming on.

CUI: Thank you, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Now, if you want to hear more of this important conversation with China's ambassador, I have clips about climate change, about technology, about Hong Kong and more on my website. Please go to CNN.com/Fareed.

By the way, regarding my question about the BBC, you should know that news organization has done a series of reports on the Uighur issue. In 2018 it did have reporters in Xinjiang. For this week's story, they talked to women who made it out of the camps and fled China. We will be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:57:00]

ZAKARIA: My book of the week is Ayad Akhtar's "Homeland Elegies." Akhtar won the Pulitzer Prize for his stunning play "Disgraced." This is an equally accomplished book, a memoir disguised as a novel, a story about a young Muslim man navigating his relationship with his father and their relationship with America in the years after 9/11. It is an absolutely riveting read.

And now for the last look. Myanmar's military takeover was, by many accounts, the textbook definition of a coup. Key government figures were detained in pre-dawn raids. Tanks lined the streets as parliament was cordoned off. Cell and broadcast communications were blocked. A state of emergency is now in place for a year.

With that, Myanmar's decade-long experiment with a democratic transition ended and the nation returned to military leadership, the status quo for most of the last 60 years.

Meanwhile, Myanmar's most famous citizen, the nation's elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi returned to house arrest, as she had been for 15 years before the junta released her in 2010.

What went wrong?

As Max Fisher writes in the New York Times, Aung San Suu Kyi, who won a Nobel Peace Prize 30 years ago for her non-violent struggle against that military regime, might not have been the Mandela-like leader that people imagined her to be.

Suu Kyi lost the acclaim of the international community as she defended the military's atrocities against the Rohingya, Myanmar's Muslim minority. She even flew to the Hague in 2019 to defend the military's actions in person before the International Court of Justice.

Some observers cautioned that she had to appease the military. Others feared that she shared their animosity.

If it was appeasement, it did not work. In nationwide elections in November, Aung San Suu Kyi's National League For Democracy, or NLD party swept to even greater power than her astonishing 2015 victory, winning over 80 percent of the seats.

The military claimed fraud when its proxy party won only 7 percent. And on Monday, the very day parliament was set to begin by certifying those election results, the generals took over.

Why? Well, with her enormous electoral victory, Suu Kyi now had a mandate to further diminish the military's power. While still immensely popular, Suu Kyi did not seem to know how to wield that electoral power effectively against the military.

She did not build a broad democratic coalition, instead running her own party like a court. She curtailed press freedoms and imprisoned dissidents.

One crucial element for a transition to democracy in a poor country like Myanmar is a powerful, capable and committed democrat as leader. It turns out Aung San Suu Kyi was not that leader. A note before we go. In my take last week about vaccine nationalism,

I should have made clear that Canada has promised to donate its excess supply of vaccines to developing countries. Let's hope others follow this excellent example.

Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.