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China's Zero COVID Policy at Breaking Point?; State of the GOP; Interview With Deputy Head of the Office of the Ukrainian President Ihor Zhovkva; Interview with China Crossroads Founder Frank Tsai; Interview with "Pandemic, Inc." Author J. David McSwane. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired April 19, 2022 - 13:00:00   ET




Here's what's coming up.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Russian forces have started the battle for Donbass, for which they have been

preparing for a long time.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): An ominous shift on the battlefield, and President Biden tries to rally the world.

Ihor Zhovkva, chief diplomatic adviser to President Zelenskyy, joins me.

Plus: As the Republican Party shows a worrying anti-NATO stance and withdraws from the Commission on Presidential Debates, we examine the state

of the GOP with strategist Sarah Longwell.

Then: desperate in Shanghai. We look at life under the strictest lockdown. Is China's zero COVID policy at breaking point?

J. DAVID MCSWANE, "AUTHOR, PANDEMIC, INC.": It's quite a lot. It was really a bonanza for fraudsters.

AMANPOUR: "Pandemic, Inc.: Chasing the Capitalists and Thieves Who Got Rich While We Got Sick." Author David McSwane on the people who profited from

the pandemic.


AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

President Biden has implored Western allies to stand up to Putin's aggression in a call with those partners today. It comes as both Ukraine

and Russia declare that the battle of battles has begun for the eastern Donbass region.

Now, in interviews since the start of Moscow's war, top Western leaders have insisted to us that Putin must not win, that his project for Ukraine

must be defeated, and that victory for Ukraine and the whole democratic world is a strategic necessity. So, are President Biden and his NATO allies

doing all they can to make that happen?

Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi has warned that failing to arm Ukraine means condemning them to submission.

Ihor Zhovkva is chief diplomatic adviser to President Zelenskyy. And he's joining me now from Kyiv.

And, Mr. Zhovkva, welcome back to our program.

So that's my question to you. From your perspective, given the new front that has opened now well and truly in earnest, is the West doing enough for

you to back up their insistence that Putin cannot win?

IHOR ZHOVKVA, DEPUTY HEAD OF THE OFFICE OF THE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Well, unfortunately, I cannot tell you that the West is doing quite enough.

Yes, the West is doing what they can, but doing it somehow slowly and not suffice, because, right before the war, you might remember, my president

was demanding from Western leaders of preventive sanction or giving him arms, defensive arms able to defend Ukraine.

At that time, my president was not heard. And now, when the war has started, and when the battle over Donbass started, and we all knew that

this battle over Donbass will start sooner or later, because what Russia was doing the last two or three weeks, after withdrawing parts of the

troops from the north of my country, was concentrating them on the Donbass.

So now it's really started. And in order to win this battle -- we will definitely win this battle, as well as we will win the war. But we need

more and more weapons. Yes, some positive moves have been made. President Biden just immediately after the phone call with my president previous week

announced about this $800 million military assistance and concrete items, ground weapons which we need on the ground.

But, definitely, we need more. We need not only from the U.S. or from the U.K. We need from all our partners in the European Union. Each of them

possess this or that kind of weapons we need. We know that they have it. We know that they not use it. We do not demand 100 percent.

Like my president said in the previous interviews, we want 1 percent of all the NATO capacity, for instance. If you give us this 1 percent, it will be

suffice for us to win. And, yes, we need both ground weapon and the weapon able to defend the skies, because, unfortunately, NATO leaders have refused

to close the skies over Ukraine.

But, really, we will do it by ourselves, but please provide us with the necessary weapons.

AMANPOUR: OK, so, when I was there, I spoke to your head of military intelligence, General Budanov, who laid out the list, I mean, mostly long-

range artillery, precision-guided missiles, anti-aircraft systems, but, importantly, he said, combat aircraft.

Do you agree? Is that what you need, combat aircraft, not a NATO no-fly zone, but aircraft to be able to do the job yourself?


ZHOVKVA: Well, yes, if NATO refuses to provide us with a no-fly zone, we are ready to do it by ourselves.

And, yes, we need combat aircraft, as well as we need missile defense system, anti-aircraft defense systems. Yes, provided with this, we are

capable to close the sky over Ukraine. So, absolutely agree with General Budanov.

AMANPOUR: So tell me about now what you see in Eastern Ukraine. Has the battle posture of the Russians significantly changed? Are you concerned

that they are now very much closer to their own supply lines in Russia, that the terrain, as some military analysts say, may now favor them, unlike

the urban terrain in the Kyiv region or other such areas where they have been pushed back by your forces?

ZHOVKVA: Well, as far as terrain is concerned, I'm not that big military expert.

But just mere logic says that, well, the terrain has changed, and there are pluses and minuses for Ukrainian armed forces, but you have to remember

that there in the Donbass, they also stationed well-equipped and well- trained Ukrainian armed forces, who were waging this -- this -- or confronting Russian aggression in Donbass starting from 2014, because

Russian aggression started not in 2022.

It started in 2014, namely, from the Crimea and Donbass. So, yes, the circumstances might change, but the knowledge of armed forces is not. As

far as the supply chains, we cannot agree that this is quite a difference, and it will be much more easier for Russians, because when they were

staging on the north of Ukraine, they haven't -- they were having supply chains from the neighboring Belarus.

It's not a secret that Belarus provided Russian troops with all the necessary weapon, fuel, et cetera. So these -- in this case, they don't

have many advantages comparing to the previous positions.

AMANPOUR: OK, so then tell us how you all feel about this, because, on the one hand, I think the West got a pretty big shot in the arm, so to speak,

of satisfaction that the Russians had been defeated by your forces in that part of the country.

And your president, though, has said, don't celebrate too soon. There is no victory yet. But you know the lay of the land in the east. You know your

troops' posture. You know the Russians.

What is the feeling inside the presidency? Can you -- can you win this battle?

ZHOVKVA: Definitely, we can.

And, definitely, I can agree with my president that it's far too early to celebrate a general victory, though. Yes, we managed successfully to do it

on field in the Northern Ukraine. We were prepared for this battle of Donbass. So, we are prepared and we were prepared. And it will be

definitely -- when -- we definitely know how to win, because, again, if our troops and our armed forces, besides being well-trained, besides having

good experience, they also have motivation.

They defend their own land, and they fight for their own land. We don't need any others' land. We don't need any inch of Russian territory. But we

will not give away any inch of Ukrainian territory. So, definitely, we are absolutely sure that Donbass will be Ukrainian.

But Russians are telling about liberation of Donbass. Have they asked the population of Donbass, do they want this liberation? So the population, the

Ukrainian civilians will be also on the side of the Ukrainian armed forces. And the Russians already know how it is difficult to fight not only with

the Ukrainian armed forces, but when all the population is absolutely against any Russian invasion.

So, definitely, I'm sure. And this is the feeling in the president's. And this is absolutely feeling of my president that we will win, not only in

this battle, but we will win in the war against Russia.

AMANPOUR: Again, General Budanov told me that you pretty much have as you laid out, but they have numerical superiority and, in some cases, military

technical superiority. But I understand what you're saying.

I want to play you this sound bite from what the Russian defense minister, Shoigu, just said, essentially trying to get the West to stop helping you.

This is what he said.


SERGEI SHOIGU, RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): The United States of America and controlled Western countries are doing everything to

drag out the special military operation as much as possible.

The increasing volume of foreign arm supplies clearly demonstrates their intentions to provoke the Kyiv regime to fight to the last Ukrainian



AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, he clearly knows that you're going to fight to the death.

Do you think what he says and what Putin says about Western arms supplies is a threat to the West, or is it a sign and an acknowledgement that it's

really making a difference, and they're a bit -- they're a bit -- I don't want to scared, but that has impressed them?


ZHOVKVA: Well, definitely second answer, that we should give, for obvious reasons.

Besides not knowing how to fight or lacking experience how to fight in a modern war, Russian armed forces or Russian leadership always use the

tactics of blackmailing or threatening or of drawing this or that red lines or ultimatums, et cetera.

That's what they are doing throughout all the war. I mean, they look -- every successful operation of Ukraine, we immediately got for threats that

we will fire against not only military objects, but against the civilian objects.

Look, when some -- this or that country makes a supply of weapon, immediately follows the answer of Russia that we will shell and bombard the

lines of supplies you're delivering. Just recently, when we had the new supplies from the U.S. and other countries, Russia told that this will be

the targets for Russian forces, those new supplies.

So it's high time for the whole world community -- and I think most of the world community are on this track already -- to start -- to stop being

afraid of Russian ultimatums, of being afraid of Russian blackmail and threatening.

We in Ukraine are brave. We do not fear of either Mr. Putin or Russian generals or ministers or whatever. We know how to fight them. We can fight

them. So, it's high time for the world to be shoulder to shoulder with us.

AMANPOUR: You know that your own intelligence service has said that they have intercepted communications about Mariupol, suggesting that Russian

commanders have said level the plant there, the steel plant, the Azov steel plant, where your troops are and where civilians are also apparently


What will happen to your war effort if Mariupol falls?

ZHOVKVA: My president answered this question.

He told that, if they will kill every Ukrainian soldier, not even talking about killing civilians, which, unfortunately, is a useful -- usual thing

for them already, there will be no absolutely space for any negotiations, and we will definitely fight until the end and until the last drop of


But, really, Mariupol, you have to understand Mariupol became for them a symbol. Having failed to achieve any major victories on field, having

failed to besiege any big cities like Kyiv, like Odessa, like Kharkiv, they want something symbolic to happen. They want something to tell to their

publics, look, Russian armed forces are really great and they besieged the city of Mariupol there.

They are fighting now there, not even against Ukrainian armed forces. They are fighting against civilians, 100,000 civilians left in Mariupol,

including in this steel plant Azovstal. And they're not letting them out. Why shouldn't they let the people, the civilians out, and then fight

against Ukrainian armed forces?

But, no, they block humanitarian corridors. They deport people forcefully to Russia. They deport children and women. They shell at drama theater or

maternity hospital. So, if this is a war, it's a mere act of genocide and war crimes and crimes against humanity.


ZHOVKVA: But be sure we will withstand and we will definitely win.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you for your reaction. I mean, I can imagine what your reaction will be.

But it does seem incredible that Vladimir Putin has honored those particular units in Bucha that are being accused of war crimes, and he

called them -- praised their great heroism and courage and high professionalism in defending the fatherland.

ZHOVKVA: Well, what can I say?

Everyone saw, everyone in the world, everyone reason -- every reasonable person saw the atrocities which happened in Bucha, Borodyanka, Gostomel,

Irpin. They are heroes for what? They are heroes for raping women or for killing children or, I don't know, for ruining the houses.

If this is the heroes they are showing on the ground, OK, this is the state of events in the Russian army.

AMANPOUR: Ihor Zhovkva, thank you very much. And we will check in again with you regularly. Thank you so much.

Now, NATO's united front has surprised and angered Moscow. But, in the United States, the Republican Party is anything but united on this; 63

House Republicans -- that's nearly a third -- recently voted against a resolution supporting the NATO alliance. And it's just one of a number of

moves by the GOP in weeks that have set alarm bells ringing.

The RNC has withdrawn from the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, which has organized them since 1988. And the party certainly seems

still beholden to the former President Donald Trump.

Sarah Longwell is a Republican strategist. And she's joining us from Washington.


Welcome back to this program, Sarah Longwell.

You have just heard me talk to the presidential adviser in a real matter of life and death, not just for Ukraine, but for the Western world. How do you

explain that a third of the House Republicans voted against a resolution supporting NATO?

SARAH LONGWELL, FOUNDER, THE REPUBLICAN ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECT: Oh, it's quite simple. It's about Donald Trump and his capture on the Republican

Party, the way that he has changed and shaped the Republican Party since he won the election in 2016.

Abandoning NATO has always been central to who Donald Trump is. It's -- he called it fat and obsolete and sloppy. He was always against it. And I

think that there's a lot of us -- and I will put myself in this category -- who thought that Trump was a cancer on the Republican Party, and that, if

you sort of cut him out, there would be this institutional muscle memory that would bounce back, and there would be enough of the old Republican

Party there to sort of just come back to normal.

And, instead, what you have seen as is, he's metastasized as a cancer, and the party has gotten Trumpier in its entire posture. And so seeing 63

Republicans vote against just affirming NATO is -- that's all it is. It's all about the party getting Trumpier and being created more in Donald

Trump's image.

AMANPOUR: Does that mean, though -- I hear everything you're saying.

Does that mean then the Republican Party or at least a big chunk of it, is abandoning what used to be its North Star, one of them anyway, on

international affairs, to be strong on defense, strong on security?

LONGWELL: Yes, I mean, it's a real division in the Republican Party.

And I will tell you, the Republican Party that I joined was one that believed, as a central fundamental tenet, in American leadership in the

world. And there was always a little bit of a recessive, isolationist gene within the -- in the party, but that is now the dominant gene.

And it's to the point where -- and you see this -- you see the Tucker Carlsons of the world out there actively posturing against Ukraine. The

Senate-endorsed candidate in Ohio, by Donald Trump, J.D. Vance, he talked about, why do we care about Ukraine?

There's this isolationist movement, and there's still a chunk of the party, that establishment, the old guard, who just still has that muscle memory.

But this new -- the people taking over and the candidates that are running in 2022 reflect much more this Donald Trump isolationist vision that is


And if it's not anti-Ukraine or pro-Russian, it's kind of anti-anti-Russia, where those of us who would be reflexively and deeply anti-Russia's

invasion of Ukraine, they're kind of there to say, well, now, let's not say that the Ukrainians are all good.

And that has been sort of a devastating turn of events for the Republican Party.

AMANPOUR: You mentioned -- I mean, it really is quite -- I mean, it's just so strange to see American Republicans saying nice things about Russia in

this situation in terms of its invasion into Ukraine. It's just strange. It's just weird, frankly, given the history of the United States, given the

history of the Republican Party.

But what I want to know from you is, because you have got a bit of a finger on the pulse, obviously, is this leaders, including in the media, or is it

the voters as well? Is it -- do the Republican Party voters think like that as well?

LONGWELL: Yes, so when people ask me this question, I tend to hold up my fingers and talk about the Republican triangle of doom, which is the toxic

and symbiotic relationship between the voters, the elected officials and the right-wing infotainment media.

They all sort of work together to push further rightward. Take something like January 6 or the election being stolen. After those events, there's a

portion of the Republican Party that condemns them, that says, no, the election wasn't stolen. It was free and fair. No, January 6 was a terrible


And then, over time, that triangle kind of works on itself, where the media, the right-wing media says, no, that was patriots storming the --

storming the U.S. Capitol, or, I don't know, the election did look like it was stolen.

And then that moves more voters, who then put pressure on elected officials. And once the elected officials come out and say, yes, that was

really just a protest, that wasn't an insurrection, then that confirms it for another group of voters. And before you know it, you have got 70

percent of Republicans that believe the 2020 election was stolen.

You have got an entire political apparatus that wants to just forget that January 6 happened and is, like, casting Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger out

for being on the January 6 Committee. And so they're all working symbiotically and reinforcing one another. It's not just one thing.



Well, you mentioned Trump. And I think you use the word kingmaker. Or I'm using that word anyway. And you said supporting various candidates which go

against the grain of the majority of the GOP leadership. So they're all racing down to Mar-a-Lago, including the mainstreamers, and kissing the


Do you think -- you mentioned J.D. Vance. There's also David Perdue in Georgia, Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania. Do you think these are candidates that

will reflect Trump's success in the upcoming elections or the opposite?

LONGWELL: I think Trump has already succeeded.

Look, there are friends of mine in the sort of anti-Trump Republican part of the party that have their magnifying glasses out and they're looking at

that Kemp-Perdue race, and they're saying, well if Kemp holds on against Perdue, who's running as a stop to steal, Trump-endorsed candidate, that's

a reflection of Donald Trump's waning power.

And I think that's sort of silly. I mean, first of all, Kemp is a relatively popular three -- he's been elected three times. He's an

incumbent governor. He should win. Like, that -- and -- but what -- if you look at the field, the entirety of the field, and you see how, in Ohio,

J.D. Vance, Josh Mandel, Gibbons, Jane Timken, they're all running to be the most MAGA candidate.

Missouri, Arizona, across the country, there are no, hey, let's move on from Trump candidates, almost none. They -- and so when I say Trump's

already won, I mean he's moved the Overton window. He's moved the definition of what Republicans are.

I mean, I saw Kay Ivey, who -- she cut an ad talking about the election being stolen. This is like one of the most conventional establishment

Republicans out there. And they have all bought in to this lie.

And so when people sort of say, race to race, does -- how much does that reflect Donald Trump's power, I would look at the entirety of the field and

say, this entire field has moved 10 steps Trump-ward, and that that is a reflection of his power over the party.

AMANPOUR: So do you think that's also reflected in the RNC decision to pull out of the of the presidential debate system as we know it?

LONGWELL: Yes, I mean, I think that's -- that is sort of an extension of Republicans trying to balkanize.

When they when they sort of decide that they're being treated unfairly, they go off and they start their own media ecosystem. And I think that

Donald Trump did something where he taught the party that it no longer had to commit to the political conventions that had always kind of undergirded

our process, right?

He didn't release his tax returns. And nobody really held him accountable for it. There was no voter backlash. He was elected. And so I think the

entire party has kind of taken an unfortunate lesson from that, which is, why don't we just withdraw from all of these institutions that we -- and

create our own environment, create our own world, our own universe, where people don't challenge us on our facts?

I mean, there really is -- something that I see as very dangerous and anti- democratic is the extension -- or the extent to which the Republican Party creates its own reality. And so I think this is another piece of that,

where, yes, we don't want the CNN anchors asking us tough questions. We will have our own people.

We will have Alex Jones ask us questions from Infowars, and it'll be a much more comfortable environment.

AMANPOUR: Well, you just mentioned anti-democratic. And, clearly, doing this stuff systematically degrades America's democracy, just withdrawing

from the actual process.

And that is what Trump has spearheaded in the United States. We're talking now in the midst of an existential struggle for the world order that the

U.S. helped lead, democracy, freedom, and all the rest of it. It is playing out on the Ukrainian battlefield.

CPAC, the conservative arm of Republicanism, is holding its latest convention soon in Hungary, the seat of an avowedly illiberal democracy,

and the prime minister, reelected for the first time, will -- fourth time - - will be a keynote speaker.

Describe that in the context of the world we're living in right now and the struggle for democracy to survive.

LONGWELL: Well, it's so dangerous to have one of the two major political parties essentially abandon its commitment to democratic leadership in the


I have got to say, though, also, on a personal level, it is like looking through a fun house mirror. I mean, when I came of age in sort of interest

in politics and was looking at the Republican Party, there was a Reagan legacy of American leadership in the world, of us having a sense

responsibility, of us leading the democratic world.


I mean, the Cold War is sort of what I was born into. I was born in 1980. I was a Reagan baby. And so to look at this version of the Republican Party

not just abandon the field of democracy, but actively have parts of the party that align with the anti-democratic forces, not the least of which

the current leader of the Republican Party and the former President Donald Trump, who I don't know how you could describe him as anything other than


And the fact that there is no active backlash, either from the elected officials or the voters against Donald Trump when he goes out and calls

Putin smart, that is gobsmacking and so dangerous.


Sarah Longwell, thank you so much indeed.

And, now, while many countries are learning to live with COVID, in China, millions are still living under lockdown. In Shanghai, a city of more than

26 million, people have been confined to their homes since March, with many now complaining of food shortages. And China's vice prime minister has

vowed to send anyone who tests positive and any close contacts to government-designated quarantine sites.

Our next guest, a longtime resident of Shanghai, was initially a supporter of China's zero COVID strategy. He is Frank Tsai, the founder of China

Crossroads, which is a platform of public lectures in Shanghai. And he's joining me now from that city under lockdown.

Frank Tsai, welcome to the program.

So, let me first start by asking you why you first supported and now do not the zero COVID policy of the Chinese government.

FRANK TSAI, FOUNDER, CHINA CROSSROADS: Well, it's very good question.

I run a business focused on in-person events. And so I have to say that our experience in the first two years of COVID in China has perhaps been better

than portrayed in much of the Western media. We had a very normal life. Something like 15 percent of China only to date has been in lockdown, so,

partly for my own business interests, but partly also because I saw what was happening in the West, and it was a much better experience here for all

of us, the expat community.

AMANPOUR: Well, that's interesting, because you're right. We do see gigantic cities have tens of millions of people having experienced

lockdown, which is essentially what is happening where you are right now.

Now, the Chinese authorities there say they may be easing it. But just tell me, what is it like for you, the total lockdown? And we have even -- we

have seen and there's video of elderly and others kind of shouting from their balconies that they're imprisoned inside and can't even get food.

TSAI: Let me just say, to partly answer your previous question, because most of us have never experienced this kind of draconian lockdown, it's

easy to support if you haven't experienced it.

And if more of China experiences this in the coming months, with rolling lockdowns across different cities, I expect the currently very high support

for zero COVID to drop.

Now, you asked me about my experience. Well, Western -- the Western audience should know that we're confined to our homes. And the major issue

is that, because we're confined to our homes, all food comes through delivery. And there have been many, many issues with.

It's been a logistical failure and embarrassment for the government. The food comes through delivery workers, but many of them are locked down

themselves. And they don't all have the permissions to be essential workers and go out and work. This has actually been improving in the last week or


But when a country like China experiences food anxiety and insecurity, this is a major issue of credibility for the government, given that this regime

has staked its credibility for decades, since its founding, on alleviating material anxiety.

So it's highly significant for this government right now.

AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you just about the notion of a zero-COVID policy. Obviously, some other countries had it. That's all been lifted in every

other part of the world, except for in China.

TSAI: Right.

AMANPOUR: And we hear today that the government has said that, since March, some -- I mean, it's a half-a-million new cases they have reported.

That is a lot of cases in just the last month.

So it doesn't seem to be working. Why does the government insist on this policy?

TSAI: In a word, the government's been telling the Chinese people for two years that this is what makes our system better.

So it's a matter of ideology. It's a competition of systems. This is one aspect of it. Now, we have to look at the government side of things. Given

the outbreak in Hong Kong, we could be looking at millions of deaths in China if it really broke out.

But, aside from that, it's been a very politicized issue right now in China. There's more sloganeering than one would expect in 2022, with echoes

of the past, the more socialist past here in China.


And so, you know, zero-COVID is becoming an end it itself in China right now. There are, of course, rational people on both sides, but it is very,

very important to the regime that we stay near zero and not have a huge outbreak, especially in the leadup to the party Congress.

Now, after that, we might expect some loosening. But the trends now are doubling down on zero-COVID.

AMANPOUR: So, just explain also, because it's obviously having an impact on the economy, the Chinese economy and also, supply chains around world at

a time when there's a lot of disruption, you know, because was war in Ukraine.

TSAI: Right.

AMANPOUR: Again, that doesn't seem to be -- it sort of seems to be ideology versus pragmatism. And China, I understood, was meant to be quite

pragmatic. So, why is it taking, do you think, policy decisions that are affecting its own economy?

TSAI: Right. We think of China as an economic animal given the gleaning skyscrapers I can see outside my window right now, but I think what we have

to understand is that, in this case, politics certainly trumps economics. There's no way that China will achieve its 5.5 percent probably good for

this year because what the regime cares most about is cashing out its promises. In this case, maintaining a very low case count.

You know, when for two years people in China have looked at the West and seen so many failures, you know, flailing around with trying to control

COVID, a lot of huge debate that we don't really have here in China, you know, people start to think, well, we're better. And so, the government

reenforces this. And now, you know, if China is seen by the people to fail, this is a huge hit on the government's credibility.

AMANPOUR: Can just broaden it just a little bit? The Chinese foreign minister today said -- or the ministry, that it would continue to

strengthen strategic coordination with Russia regardless of how the international landscape may change.

You know, it just keeps pushing a knife into like the E.U., the United States. It called the E.U. in its recent summit essentially a puppet of the

United States, not seeming to understand that it's biggest trading partner, the E.U., actually has a mind of its own when it sees Russia invading, you

know, a democratic leaning country.

Why is China doing this? Why does it want to be tethered to what is rapidly becoming an international pariah, Putin's Moscow?

TSAI: You know, I think that, you know, Ukraine is quite relevant to this. So, this is a one-party Leninist state, it's continues from the Cold War

until now, and it's afraid of these kinds of popular movements that we see, especially before in Ukraine, in Maidan. And so, in that way, it fears the

West destabilizing it. The regime fears that. And so, it's going to do what it takes to align with Russia and oppose the West in this way.

I think, again, you know, we think of China as being all about economic development, but certainly, the ruling party takes this ideology very

seriously and more so since Xi Jinping came onboard 10 years ago. Now, that China has, in very many ways, succeeded economically and modernized, you

know, it's going to be less self-conscious about the issues in its ruling ideology and more confident and that its way doing things the right way.

And frankly, COVID has been a demonstration of that for the Chinese people and China also believes to the world.

AMANPOUR: If I said to you the 1958 Maoist Sparrow policy, would you know what I was talking about?

TSAI: Of course.

AMANPOUR: OK. OK. Well, this is really for me a dramatic example of one- man rule and one-man think. You can explain, but in '58, he decided all of the sparrows needed to be eliminated and that had a knock-on effect that

led to famines and the deaths of tens of millions of Chinese by famine. So, put that into sort of context with this zero-COVID policy and this idea of

ideology, sometimes trumping pragmatism and sensible policy.

TSAI: Yes. I would say that, you know, every regime has to go back to its stories and its DNA. We do the same thing in the United States. We always

go back on the constitution and our founding. So does China.

You bring up a very good point. What's happening in China now is that zero- COVID is being made an end to itself. You referred to the past, 1958. Many of China's failures in the past were also about seeing some shining ideal.

It might have been some socialist paradise in the past. Now, it's zero- COVID, an end in itself.


And so, this does point out certain flaws in this regime type. Now, I've just agreed with you. I also heartly disagree with you on another point.

You know, this regime is not one-man rule. So, I think we make a mistake by analogizing Russia to China in terms of how its rule. I think it's

uncontroversial to say that Russia is a mafia state with one man on top.

You know, China could not launch a war -- the president here could not launch a war by himself. The communist party here is a strong and

functioning institution in the sense that, you know, it makes decisions and one man can't say everything. Now, the trends, of course, are more toward

centralized power. But, you know, this is a strong institution and it's not like Russia in that way. Yes.

AMANPOUR: Really interesting. Fascinating insight. Frank Tsai, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

And our next guest explores the United States' scramble to control the virus, that was back in early 2020. In his new book, "Pandemic, Inc." David

McSwane documents how corruption and incompetence in the United States riddled the nation's initial COVID response. And he now joins us Hari

Sreenivasan to discuss the pandemic profiteers.

HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. David McSwane, thanks so much for joining us.

This book takes us through so many of basically the hucksters, the charlatans that profited from all different parts of the pandemic. And you

start the book of with one, I think, that's pretty compelling. Tell us a little bit about, you know, this private jet ride that you're taking, one

of the first reporting trips that you or any of your colleagues in your newsroom were doing during the pandemic. Who is this guy? How did he get

such a huge contract? How did you stumble across him?

J. DAVID MCSWANE, AUTHOR, "PANDEMIC, INC.": Right. Yes. These were the really scary months of the pandemic, April 2020, you know, hospitals are

being overrun. We're all locked down. My news organization said, we can't go in the field.

So, I'm looking at, you know, where the government money is going, the purchasing and contracting data and we're just sort of running filters, you

know, kind of nerdy stuff to figure out who we want to look at. And it really just seems like companies that had no footprint were getting really

big deals for masks and gloves and things we really needed. And I honed on one, a Robert Stewart Jr. whose little company here in Fall Church,

Virginia had scored a $34.5 million deal with the Veterans Administration, which oversees the largest hospital network in the country and they were --

people inside, doctors and nurses were panicking.

So, he had a pretty big role. And I couldn't figure out how he got this deal. It didn't look like there was anybody. We sort of had a hunch that

that was happening. And I just decided to call him and ask him. And, you know, he was a little cagey about some things. But he said, you know, I'm

the real deal. I've got 6 million N95 masks. I'm going to oversee their delivery. I'm hopping on a private jet tomorrow.

You know, and my reporter brain sort of perked up and I was like, private jet? Would you mind if I tagged along? I think that would be an amazing

story. And it would have been if he delivered. If he didn't deliver, either way I thought America should know whose -- who've we really had to sort of

count on to get these supplies where they needed to be. And, you know, a few hours later, I'm on a private jet and so, began more than a year of

just really wacky reporting that I take people through in the book.

SREENIVASAN: You know, this story has all of this different kind of turns. And each time you see that there are these structural and systemic failures

that enable the grifters to come in and make the money that they do, one of the consistent themes that you keep talking about is basically that there

was no bid to lots and lots of these contracts. I mean, the government was in such a rush to try to do something that they didn't have any of the

safety measures that they usually would have to try to vet people, even with a simple Google search.

MCSWANE: Sure. Yes. That was not super shocking. I mean, we were so ill- prepared and the Trump administration had downplayed this virus but -- that by the time we had to catch up, I mean, China was literally buying masks

out from under us and shipping them back from the United States at the time and we were doing almost nothing.

So, by the time we had to do something, the national strategy became to give anyone and everyone who claim to have access to these things a deal.

And that frustrated the response, sort of cascading down from the federal government because you have states and cities and hospitals and the federal

government competing for the same supplies, driving up the price.

And you know, it's no shocker that in an emergency situation, you might see some red tape being cut, you know, a little bit less vetting, but there was

no vetting. You know, just really obvious things missed. It was that dire, and our federal government, our emergency management apparatus was panic

buying and wasting time and resources.

SREENIVASAN: Do we have any idea how much money that basically taxpayers paid for goods or services that the government did not receive?


MCSWANE: I don't think we'll ever truly have a handle on it. But for one, some federal agencies have really tried to save face in this and, you know,

they may have ended up canceling a contract or they accept something that isn't quite what they bought. And, you know, we saw FEMA try to do that and

just sort of move on.

So, it really was sort of this scatter shot approach we had to take of drilling down on each and every deal and every company and, you know, to

do, you know, a systematic analysis of that may take quite a while. But we are seeing various federal agencies and states themselves, their inspector

generals are taking a look and trying to figure out what happened, how did we get into this situation?

But, I mean, it's safe to say the federal government, just according to the database we stood up at ProPublica, they spend something 10 billion just on

those supplies that, you know, I kind of focused on early on in the book with test tubes, gloves, masks, things like that. And there was a lot of

grift in that program. And then, you look at each state, each city, it's quite a lot. It was really a bonanza for fraudsters.

SREENIVASAN: You know, you talked about test tubes here and there is a fascinating back and forth that you have when you are kind of on the

ground, trying to confront one of the people that runs one of these companies. Tell us about the test tube escapade there in Texas and what

they were, because they weren't test tubes.

MCSWANE: You know, it wasn't my preferred way of talking with this company but they had shut me out. You know, just analyzing the data from D.C.

there's, you know, a big team of us in our apartments trying to get a handle on this phenomenon. We're seeing really early on it. And we saw one

company that had been created on a Monday, I think. And then, six days later, they had a $10 million deal with FEMA, the Federal Emergency

Management Agenda for COVID-19 test kits.

And at the time, we are woefully behind on testing. It's crippling our pandemic response because we can't be proactive, we can't ahead of the

virus. So, this was a really big deal. And this company came out of nowhere, they had no medical experience whatsoever. These were for PCR

tests, which required lab testing some science.

So, we were skeptical. And we just sort of put it into a story. We didn't have all of the answers. We saw that the owner had a history of fraud

allegations against him. Anyway, we put the story out. And a state public health official calls me and says, hey, I've seen these test tubes. I got

them last week and they're completely unusable. These are not test tubes. They're not hermetically sealed. I don't think they're sterile. They don't

fit standard lab equipment. I didn't know what they were. I showed them to a colleague and he realized that they are mini soda bottle preforms, which

are, you know, you blow up to create two-liter soda bottles at your local grocery store.

So, I showed up and I tried to go through the front door. They shooed me away. I asked for a tour. They said, no way. So, I just kind of hung out

and shot some video and watched. They finally opened the door and I could see that workers were using literal snow shovels to gather up these many

soda bottles, to put them in the other bins. Some people were wearing masks and some weren't. Air is whipping around. And when we reported back to FEMA

what we had seen, they had distributed these to all 50 states and territories.

SREENIVASAN: So, these are supposed to be sterile test tubes and you're telling me people were scooping them up with snow shovels?

MCSWANE: Yes. Right. And workers we talked to said it wasn't even clean, let alone sterile. You know, they were alarmed by what they had seen. And,

you know, we tell FEMA this and they had to tell states and territories, don't -- you can't use those. So, it delayed, you know, testing all over.

SREENIVASAN: You know, I think more painful for me as I kept reading this was, yes, there is money lost, but I don't even know how to begin

calculating the lives lost because we didn't have masks in place or respirators or ventilators or testing. I mean, so many parts of this chain

were corrupted that where do you begin to figure out whether somebody could have been saved if this decision had been made differently?

MCSWANE: It is hard, you know. And finding that connective tissue to stitch together while this mask wasn't delivered and this person suffered

as a result of that, it really is impossible. It's just too convoluted. So, I tried to take it all in, you know, the scope of it and share with readers

that this was a magnificent failure. I mean, this was huge. And we may never really be able to pin a number to it in terms of the number of lives


But, like, during these months, time meant American lives. So, wasting any amount of time with a fraudster who doesn't deliver and then, having to

track down whether or not they had things to begin with was just not what we needed to be doing.


SREENIVASAN: What's Peter Navarro's role in all of this? I mean, he was a person very senior in the White House. He had the ear of the president at

very crucial times during this pandemic. There are parts of him, you say, well, it's almost heroic that he understands the threat early on and he's

trying to do this. And then in other parts, it's almost villainous how he's able to approve, you know, money for companies that shouldn't have gotten

that money.

MCSWANE: Inadvertently, Peter Navarro really set me off on this journey. He was the trade adviser for Donald Trump, highly influential, as you

mentioned. And I noticed early on, you know, someone had written into a contract that was awarded for high-end respirators ordered by the White

House, which you can't have the White House and political appointees awarding government money for obvious reasons. And he did something

remarkable. He just stepped in and started doing it, and started saying, you get a contract, you get a contract.

And at the same time was in the middle of some deals with a U.S. mask manufacturer who could have delivered N95s, that fell apart over

personalities. So, I saw him as a complicated character who, you know, a lot of people -- even in the Trump White House sort of disregard him as an

extremist. You know, he's a China hawk. He's a bit of an eccentric. But you see these memos he put out and he recognized early on the threat, and he

wasn't being listened to.

So, he sorts of super charges this effort to buy things and there's some good and some bad as a result of that. And, you know, it's just amazing

that we should have had a professional emergency manager in charge of these things. But the Trump administration had worked so hard to disregards

expertise that here's the guy now sort of silently steering the ship and, you know, the result was disaster.

And, you know, despite his early warnings, he ends up becoming a little bit of a tragic character he becomes obsessed with hydroxychloroquine, which

the Trump administration falsely claims was like sort of a cure-all. You know, so, I just -- I viewed him as somebody was in the right place to do

something great, he kind of gotten in his own way.

SREENIVASAN: I know you conducted dozens of interviews. Did Peter Navarro sit down for one or has there been a response if he didn't sit down with

you during the book afterwards?

MCSWANE: He wouldn't sit down with me. And I really wanted to sit down with him. I had texted him. I left him messages. I had reported some things

out there. So, he knew I was interested in him. You know, from what I can tell, he was working on his own book, and you know, he is one of those

people who only takes friendly interviews with conservative press, I think.

SREENIVASAN: Your reporting and that of ProPublica didn't really just stop in the acquisition of masks and ventilators. You also followed the money

when it came to the PPP loans. And even there, we see sort of the structural inequities that your data surfaced of who was getting the loans,

in what amounts, where, for what reason, and you saw so many scammers taking advantage of practically money falling from the sky.

MCSWANE: Yes. Really. I don't think that's hyperbolic to describe it that way. This -- the Paycheck Protection Program was inherently flawed in the

way that Congress created it and incentivized speed above anything else. So, you have lenders who were rushing money out the door. It's supposed to

go to your local small business, your salon owners, your Uber drivers, things like that. But we found in the first wave that it was established

businesses, franchises, some large companies. And, you know, the money dries up, it didn't quite go where it needed to go. So, you're catching up

to that.

And, you know, at the same time, people who knew how to navigate it and had relationships with banks could lie on a couple of forms and have millions

of dollars by the end of the week, and they bought yachts and Rolls-Royces, and I described one character who bought a large mansion outside of

Orlando. And, you know, by the time federal law enforcement tries to catch up with him, he goes on the lam and he's caught in Croatia and he tells a

judge there, according to news reports, that what he was doing under the Trump administration was allowable, but he became scared when Joe Biden was

elected that it would no longer be allowed.

So, there was a general sense this this was OK. You know, it's sort of a cultural phenomenon and you add this very easily gamed season and we'll be

catching up to people who defrauded the PPP loan program for many years.

SREENIVASAN: Where are we in terms of the prosecution of the crimes that have been committed by so many of the characters that you outline in the

book? Because you have a nice narrative arch that actual takes us. Tell us tell us about what happened to the guy you rode on the private jet with and

then, also, tell us, well, what about the guy that was, you know, shoveling non-test tube test tubes.


MCSWANE: The president in his State of the Union address announced a special prosecutor for pandemic fraud. I think a lot of that might be

focused on the PPP loan program. But each of these has to be a case that's made and run through the legal system, and that's going to take a long

time. We've already seen hundreds in the PPP loan program prosecuted.

And in those two instances that are in the book, one was ultimately, you know, the Robert Stewart Jr. who invited me on the private jet, after I

published that story, law enforcement digs in, federal prosecutors start looking at his finances and realized he'd been defrauding other programs

too. And he's eventually charged with three crimes and pleads. And he's currently in prison and, you know, some of the central tension of the book

is whether or not he set out to be what he called a buccaneer and a pirate or he just got over his skis and really fell for the -- his own myth in

pursuit of the American dream. And I'm not sure I know the answer to that yet.

But a -- but the owner of the company involving the test tubes, well, that company is being sued separately by the Federal Trade Commission for a

different accusation. They were paid. They delivered something to FEMA. FEMA didn't properly evaluate it, accepted it and distributed it. So,

contract experts I talked to said, it's really hard to make the case that - - you know, to make any case because they got a deal for a -- you know, they got a contract for a product. They delivered that product. The federal

government accepted the product. Case closed.

SREENIVASAN: So, when you look out at this landscape and especially the types of characters that you've met, I don't know, how is the reporting

about this just affected your view on justness, fairness, opportunism, capitalism?

MCSWANE: I think a lot of this -- what is described in the book is really human nature. And when you look at it through the lens of who we are as

Americans and where we are in this political moment, and I realize I had this opportunity, this duty, which at times was scary to travel the country

when no one else was really out there reporting on these types of things and running into these characters, I really wanted to capture this place in

time, and really viewed this as, you know, the book as an artifact of the pandemic but it's really about us.

And hopefully, it can help us ask -- you know, ask and answer some questions that, you know, will better prepare us the next time, not just in

terms of our government response, but how we treat one another and how we process information. In terms of justice, it's not for me to say who

deserves what, you know.

SREENIVASAN: Yes. How do you reform a system that at its core has to deal with human nature?

MCSWANE: Yes. That's a good question. I mean, there are some very obvious tangible things we can do, and we see some of this, you know, in the

president's proposed budget. He's proposed $88 billion into the health and human services enterprise that includes things like the stockpile, vaccine

development, et cetera.

I think if we make sure we are prepared and we take this seriously and we don't let politics get in the way, we'll be on much better footing and we

won't find ourselves reliant on mercenaries for our national well-being.

SREENIVASAN: David MsSwane from ProPublica, thanks so much for your time.

MCSWANE: Thanks for having me.


AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight then, bouncing back from the pandemic. Paragliders have returned to the skies of Ghana for an annual festival. It

is the first since the pandemic forced a two-year break. Paragliders from around the world flocked to this quiet corner of Ghana to take a run and

jump from the country's second tallest mountain.

It looks like business is back and better than normal, according to the National Tourist Board, which hopes paragliding will establish this West

African nation as the center for extreme sports.

That is it for now. If you ever miss our show, you can always find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. On your screen now is

a QR code, all you need to do is pick up your phone and scan it with your camera. You can also find it at and on all the major

platforms, just search Amanpour. Remember, you can always catch us online, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Thanks for watching. Good-bye from London.



HALA GORANI, CNNI HOST: Hello, everyone. Live from CNN London. I'm Hala Gorani.

Tonight, Russia attacks Eastern Ukraine and a fresh onslaught and Mariupol teeters on the brink of capture. We're on the ground with all the latest


Then, Boris Johnson faces --