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Interview With Former U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen; Interview With "Kingdom Of Characters" Author And Yale University Professor East Asian Languages And Literature Jing Tsu; Interview With Immunology And Infectious Diseases Assistant Professor And Harvard Chan School Of Public Health Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired March 06, 2023 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. And welcome to AMANPOUR, here is what is coming up.
Russian troops close in on the Ukrainian City of Bakhmut. How will this affect the course of the war? I asked the Former Chairman of Joint Chiefs
Mike Mullen, and how he thinks allies can help Ukraine secure a victory.
Plus, from cozying up to Putin to launching spy balloons over the United States, tension between Beijing and Washington reach new heights. My
conversation with Jing Tsu, author of the "Kingdom of Characters" about better understanding China.
Also ahead --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. KIZZMEKIA CORBETT, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, IMMUNOLOGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES AND HARVARD CHAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: We had an idea that it
was a coronavirus, but what we didn't know is that, if it were coronavirus, we had something that might be of help.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A grim marker, three years since the start of the COVID pandemic. Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett talks to Walter Isaacson about developing
the groundbreaking mRNA vaccine.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York.
America and its NATO allies are watching developments very closely in eastern Ukraine where the battle for Bakhmut is raging and Russia may be on
the verge of a much-needed victory. As you can see, Russian troops are inching closer as they try to encircle and capture the city, but Ukraine
vows to defend what is left and says, it is still in control of a key highway into the area.
So, how important is Bakhmut? The U.S. defense secretary says, that it would not be a strategic setback if the Ukrainians decide to reposition
west of Bakhmut, arguing that it's value is largely symbolic.
Meanwhile, in the south, Russian shelling has killed three people including two children, that's according to the Ukrainian military. My next guest,
retired U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen spent four decades serving his country and then he served as President Obama's Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
And he's joining me now live from Annapolis, Maryland.
Admiral Mullen, welcome back to the program. So, you know, the word Bakhmut has been on everybody's lips for a long, long time. How do you assess its
nature to the prosecution of this war?
MIKE MULLEN, FORMER U.S. JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Well, I think it's -- I basically agree. I don't think strategically in terms of the progress on
the ground, that it's overly significant. But I do think from both sides, actually, both Ukraine and Russia, that it provides -- it's almost
symbolic. And it's been six or seven months, that the Ukrainians have been fiercely defending Bakhmut. And it's also been obviously that long that the
Russians have been attacking it.
And one of the things that is just a fact is, because of the effort in defense, the Russians have expanded a tremendous amount of resources.
They've lost thousands and thousands of soldiers. They've lost an enormous amount of equipment. And so, whether, technically, it is a huge gain or
loss on the ground, I think in terms of impact of the war, it's had a significant impact on what Russia can do. And I think it -- you know, in
its own way, starts to limit what they can do in other places, for instance, in the south, which is a place you just talked about.
AMANPOUR: So, Admiral Mullen, you just mentioned something that NATO has just confirmed, at least an official of NATO is actually talking
anonymously, saying that they believe Russia has lost perhaps five times as many forces on the ground as Ukraine during this battle for Bakhmut. So,
you know, you just explain what that might mean for Russia trying to, you know, secure itself in the south.
But also, let's just stick with Ukraine for a second because you have all described it as pretty much, kind of, a do or die and certainly symbolic.
You remember, President Zelenskyy went to Bakhmut on the eve of his visit to Congress. He brought back a flag that he said a soldier from Bakhmut
gave him to take to the United States. So, it's hugely symbolic and they've lost a lot of people.
How will that affect the mindset of commanders and troops, if they then have to then turn around and launch a counteroffensive somewhere else?
MULLEN: Well, I think, knowing what they know in terms of the progress of the battle, and its city, I think at some 70,000 and reports are now, there
are now 4,000 or 5,000 left. And also, viewing the photographs of the rubble that Bakhmut has become, which I think is what Putin is trying to do
across the country, to ruin as much of the country as possible. You know, it will have its effect.
That said, those losses that we described earlier with the Russians are typical of their inability to fight. And I think one of the things to your
point about the counteroffensive when it comes in the spring, we will find the Ukrainian military much more capable of what we call combined arms
training. The coordination of air, artillery, armor, they will have much more armor available to them, if you will, in the Bradley's and the
Strikers that are over there.
And so, I think in a long run, it puts Ukraine in a much better position to fight -- continue the fight. And I -- Russia's given me no indication that
they are capable of dramatically changing how they fight while they continue to stay -- sustain these huge losses. And I think that'll be --
that will happen in the counteroffensive as well.
AMANPOUR: So, you know, we again heard from the head of the -- sorry, Wagner group, who is Prigozhin, who is complaining bitterly along with his
forces, of lack of ammunition, a lack of shells, and the like. But we also know that Ukraine is lacking that. We know that the E.U. has earmarked a
billion dollars for 1.55-millimeter artillery shells but they have not gotten them yet. And you're talking about this spring offensive, which to
be fair, if spring is March 20th that is just three weeks away. Do you think they are ready for a -- for an offensive to start that soon?
MULLEN: Well, I think, you've -- the question is a great question because in a way, Christiane, this fight has evolved into a battle of attrition.
And so -- and battles of attrition are oftentimes won by the health or lack thereof of the industrial base. So, clearly both sides are focused on this
potential shortage of ammunition.
And it's really critical, particularly for the Ukrainians, to be very selective about the use of ammunition that they have because obviously the
supply is not infinite. But you also hear that, you know, Russia is having the same problem.
So, I think everybody is aware of that and the commitments as well as creating the production lines, which is -- which can be a problem as well,
which will produce ammunition for the future fight. And I think that there are -- everybody would like -- one would like this to end, you know,
immediately. Secondly, there's discussions on how it ends. But my sense, Christiane, is this counteroffensive, and the results of that for the rest
of this year, we'll really set the stage for when these ends. And I actually hope that it's sooner rather than later, sometime late this year.
AMANPOUR: Yes, and of course, sooner would benefit the Ukrainians because they are less numerous than the Russians. Putin thinks he can out wait the
west, and obviously unity, and all of this is being tested, you know, right now.
I want to ask you a couple of things, you know, to follow up on what you just said. If you were the commander, what -- the battle -- you know, the
battle zone commander now, what would you say Ukraine needs in order to have a successful counteroffensive? What does it need to focus on and what
equipment, training, you know, sophisticated arms systems does it need now?
MULLEN: They've been very -- the Ukrainians have been exceptional in training throughout this fight, over the course of the last year and
actually before that. I would argue that a great deal of the training they did between Crimea in 2014 and 2022 has served them exceptionally well.
They continue to train and this combined arms training, I think, that they are going through now will make a significant difference in the future
fight, and that's what I would emphasize.
And then back that up, obviously with the weapons and the systems that they need. Many people are chasing the F-16, it's almost like it's a shiny
And I think eventually we will get F-16s for the Ukrainians, but in the meantime that is not really what they need. They need the kind of
artillery, more HIMARS, more precision guided munitions to be able to strike deep at the Russians and have the kind of impact they have had in
the past. That, to me, well I think, make a huge difference in what happens over the course of the next six or seven months.
AMANPOUR: Look, let me push back a little bit. You say, and many, many in the NATO, you know, groups says that that is not what they need when they
talk about fighter jets. But, you know, the Leopard tank was a shiny object that was being held back for a long time, and now, they are getting them,
or at least they're trying to get them as fast as they can. And you all are saying that actually they need that kind of projection of power, et cetera.
So, why do you think they don't need aircraft and what we also heard is that some Ukrainians are being trained outside, including in the United
States, on simulators to figure out, you know, exactly how to furnish them with these fighter jets, whatever they might be. Why do you think they
don't need them?
MULLEN: I don't think -- I didn't mean to say, I don't think they don't meet them.
MULLEN: I think they will eventually get them. You mentioned the --
MULLEN: -- training that is being reported right now. What they really need -- and they have actually been very good at this, is they need the air
defense systems. And if you go back to very early in the war, the number of Russian aircraft that got shot down in the first couple of months was
So, the ability to impact, you know, the Russian aircraft as well. And I recognize that at some point in time we're going to have to go deeper
because there are Russian aircraft launching weapons from inside Russia which is where we don't want to go. And I just think, Christiane, that it's
going to take a little more time to develop that capability, to get them to a point where those -- where the F-16s would be handled in an optimum way.
I think they are coming, obviously not as fast as both President Zelenskyy and his military would like.
AMANPOUR: Yes, the defense minister did say what you are saying, he does believe that they are coming. And as you say, the question is when? I want
to read something that was in the FT recently by, you know, a military analyst. It basically says, essentially poses the question, does the United
States and Europe really want an outright victory for Ukraine?
He said, after a year of war, what stands out is less solidarity than the gap between rhetoric and real delivery. A cynic might conclude -- would
conclude that the west unspoken aim is not just to prevent a Russian victory but to avoid a decisive Ukrainian success for fear of escalation by
Vladimir Putin's regime. To me that feels like old think. Do you, though, think -- and you're plugged in around Washington and the defense
establishment, is that still, you think, what they might think here?
MULLEN: Well, I think we always have to keep in mind that there is the possibility of escalation, particularly getting into the nuclear threshold.
It seems as though that is much less likely than it was even as this conflict started a year ago. I have no information to indicate that that
kind of think is where we are, that somehow there needs to be some level of equality between these two forces.
I mean, I just take President Biden's visit to Ukraine the other day and how strong he was, and how well he has led NATO, and quite frankly the NATO
leadership has been exceptionally strong. And I think it's really important to send a message, quite frankly, that Russia can't do this ever again. And
supporting those countries, I mean, Ukraine being one now, but many others who grew up under the Warsaw Pact and under the Soviet empire if you will,
do not want to go back --
MULLEN: -- and this is what this is all about. Reassuring that that cannot happen again.
AMANPOUR: Exactly. So, you have, obviously, the Baltic States, you have Poland, and others, but definitely those who understand the perils of what
you've just said. And yet, the recently re-elected prime minister of Estonia Kaja Kallas said, you know, only a few days ago that she is worried
that the longer this goes on, the more the unity phrase and the more, perhaps, there might be some kind of move to "appease Putin".
And I just want to know what you think right now because, you know, at the beginning of this, people like Olaf Scholz, Emmanuel Macron, they were
talking -- trying about negotiations, trying to talk to Putin, et cetera. Now, certainly, Macron is categoric, this has to end in a victory for
Ukraine. How do you assess that?
MULLEN: I think from the leadership standpoint, Christiane, that is the answer. And I think the leaders have come together to say that. I don't
disagree with the view that the longer this goes, the -- you know, the more difficult it becomes. But six months ago, we were all talking about whether
there would be a real crack for this spring, and we're there, and we're united.
And so, you know, that's why I think what happens this year is hugely critical. Clearly, there are limits, you know, down the road. But I don't
want to project, you know, an outcome at this particular point based on what we think might be fissures, you know, in the alliance --
MULLEN: -- and in the coalition six or 12 months from now. That is why this year is so important.
MULLEN: That's why we need to get as much gear and munitions and support into Ukraine right now so that we don't have to answer that question. It
will be clear that Ukraine has won and Russia has lost.
AMANPOUR: So, that is very interesting to hear you say that because again, you know, many say, no wars end on the battlefield, they end around the
table. Of course, we know that World War II ended with the defeat of the aggressor, the defeat of the Nazis.
So, I guess you are saying thought that in this case, Ukraine has to win enough in order to make this a defeat for the other side. It shouldn't be
brought to the negotiating table before that, is that what you are saying?
MULLEN: I think Ukraine has to win enough to be seen as a winner.
MULLEN: And I also think, obviously, there are a lot of discussions about, how do you craft an endgame here? My own view is that obviously, and
Bakhmut is a good example, I mean, Putin basically is turning the country into rubble.
MULLEN: And that's what he will continue to do. There is going to be a tremendous reconstruction bill that comes due, quite frankly. And I'm
hoping that many countries throughout the world will support that, not least of which would be, in my own view, the E.U. And, you know, I'm not in
that world but I would see Ukraine into the EU as rapidly as possible which would do two things. It would underpin an economic recovery long term, and
secondly associated with that will be some kind of security guarantee so that this doesn't happen again.
MULLEN: That would also reassure all those other countries who lived under this kind of regime that we weren't going to let that happen.
AMANPOUR: So, I want to broaden a little bit to talk about China. And you as an admiral, you know, you had that whole -- you know that idea, the
Pacific and all the rest of it, probably better than many people. What do you make of and how dangerous do you think this alliance between China and
Russia even though everybody is saying they've seen no sign of any lethal weaponry going, you know, from China to Russia.
But, you know, Russia teaming up with Iran, with North Korea, China, I mean, if we wanted to coin another phrase we could again say -- I don't
know, do you think it's like an axis of evil?
MULLEN: Well, I'm not going to jump on that phrase. But I -- certainly, I mean -- and this was many years ago, this was probably two decades ago for
me as someone pointed out amongst -- I think this was China and North Korea. And we had some hopes that somehow China would walk away a little
bit from North Korea and someone pointed out to me, you know, there are not many communist regimes left. And none of them -- and China is not going to
walk from any of them.
To me, that says a lot about this relationship which historically had been very fraught. But now I think it's very solid and significantly getting
better. I am also, you know, struck by the fact that we should remember that when Xi Jinping took over in 2012, his first out of country visit was
to Russia. And so, it's been pretty consistent since that time.
I think the idea of China providing lethal weapons is a huge step in the wrong direction for China. It's really dangerous. And there is enough
discussion of it right now to certainly indicate that there is intelligence where that is being discussed as a possibility. And I think that would be a
huge mistake for Xi Jinping.
And that said, I think Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin are going to be together for a while at the end and how all this works in the long term is
certainly an open and very serious question.
MULLEN: And it extends very quickly to stability in the Pacific region, particularly with respect to Taiwan and other country -- and other entity
if you will that is looking more and more to be democratic. And that's very -- you know, I don't think Xi Jinping wants to go to war over Taiwan, but I
do think if he thinks he's going to lose Taiwan, he will.
AMANPOUR: That is what I was going to ask you. So, you answered that question. That is really interesting because of course, you know, you have
these two big powers, Russia and China, arrayed against the United States. And we will dig deeper into that with our next guest. Admiral Mike Mullen,
thank you very, very much for joining us.
MULLEN: Thanks, Christiane. Good to be here.
AMANPOUR: As we discussed, China and his support of Russia do make -- does make it a key player. But, over the weekend the European Commission
President and the German chancellor both played down fears that Beijing would supply lethal weapons to Moscow. Ursula von der Leyen says, she sees,
"No evidence of that yet." To be fair, the United States is saying the same thing. Chancellor Olaf Scholtz indicates he has received actual assurances
from China that there will be no arms deliveries.
Meantime, Washington and Beijing's relationship worsens. The United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken's canceled trip to Beijing because of the
spy balloon crisis is exhibit A. Author, Jing Tsu says, the west fails to understand China. Her new book, the "Kingdom of Characters", looks at how
Chinese history can be defined by its language. And Jing Tsu is here in New York and she's joining me now live.
Welcome, welcome to the program. Look, you know, it is a conundrum. China is a mystery for all of those who've sought to try to understand her for,
you know, thousands of years. But I want to pick up, Jing Tsu, on something that you said recently. You said, the days of armchair scholarship are over
if you are studying China. What do you mean by that?
JING TSU, AUTHOR, "KINGDOM OF CHARACTER" AND PROFESSOR, EAST ASIAN LANGUAGES AND LITERATURE, YALE UNIVERSITY: Well, certainly, for myself,
having started literary studies in history, it's become impossible to just read all the dictions (ph) of history and literally to try to understand
the pace and the degree of transformation that China is heading towards at this moment. So, I found myself having to attend different workshops, and
poke my head into different conversations to understand the larger picture, right, combined with a kind of historical understanding of Chinese culture
and what it's trying to do in the world.
AMANPOUR: So, what did you discover? And we said, you have looked at it, not from just another, you know, academics, military, political you know,
viewpoint. But from this viewpoint of culture and especially language, the "Kingdom of Characters", what did you discover?
TSU: Well, what's interesting is that China has been studying the west far longer than it has studied China in turn/ And one of the findings of this
book is how -- the degree of determination that China had to face and its people, how it's people actually galvanized -- was galvanized behind this
So, if you found the prospect (ph) of Chinese language, it had to jump through several hoops in order to get itself on par with the alphabetic
age, which by far dominates the technology that we deem as the most critical today. For instance, global communications, from telegraphs to
typewriters. How do you send Chinese in a telegram using Moore's code, or how do you type Chinese on a keyboard that's labeled by alphabetical
letters like QWERTY? And more importantly, how do you get into the computer age to get Chinese into the machine?
So, each of these critical choking points showed how China was able to not just state but how much the people were galvanized behind, how failure in
the history of Chinese nationalism. And I think in the long history of the -- I think in the two centuries of dealing with the west, failure is not
something that a Chinese shy from, that they see it very much as experiences to learn from. Which is, I think, is something overlooked these
AMANPOUR: OK. So, that's interesting. I'm going to -- well, let me first ask you about some of these reformers who you detail in the book. One was,
I think, a monk, but people who saw the need to, you know, modernize the language. Tell me about some of the stories you discovered.
TSU: Well, this is really a peoples' revolution, not in the sense of the - - what the communist party would terms its people. But really, the second and third stringers of history, as I like to think of them, there was the
Mandarin, a classic confusion who had disguised himself as a monk to sneak through the borders back to China because he felt passionate about saving
the Chinese language, he had an idea for it.
There was that librarian on the eve of this -- of Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s, who, on the -- in the process of evacuating did not
forget to bring thousands of books with him because he did not want the Chinese written heritage to go to waste or be destroyed by the enemy. There
were also these computer scientists who were imprisoned during the cultural revolution, who, in his cell came up with a scheme and a plan to encode
Chinese into computer.
All these individuals operate within very tumultuous environments, and not aware Chinese state was even in a very strong position.
But nonetheless, each of this, I think, individual efforts, so I guess, what the Chinese people did, enabled the state to later, in some ways, take
the credit for it and to implement it on a global scale.
AMANPOUR: So, you -- a moment ago, you talked about experiments with nationalism and some failures and that the failures were looked at as
learning moments. And that got me thinking because Xi Jinping has become a much more nationalistic and security obsessed leader than, for instance,
economically obsessed like his predecessors. It is bringing back this idea of nationalism with a vengeance. Why, historically, do you think that is
TSU: I think one of the consistent one of the very consistent threads that we see throughout the 19th century, I think since Chinese nationalism
gathers steam in the early 20th century, is a kind of anti-western experience. They feel that they have learned and suffered and somehow got
short-ended at the -- they were put at the receiving end of all of these international global powers.
And so, the idea of coming into its own was always cast in the mentality of the underdog, even though we think of China as one of the greatest
superpowers now. So, I think that've very much ingrained, I think, in President Xi Jinping's way of thinking when he came to power. You can see a
kind of distinct roll back of a kind of opening up a marketing reform that we saw in the 1980s. In fact, the generation that grew up during the
opening reform era, I think is experiencing the current moment with this -- with this fair degree of shock and also, I think, disillusionment.
So, I think it's really important to think of that as think of cold war 2.0 at the moment, and bringing back a kind of, 1950s, 1960s mentality, there's
also a generation that's actually wondering what's going to happen in the 21st century, not just of a 2.0 version of the 1960s.
AMANPOUR: So, I mean, again, when everyone thinks of China, we know that they're thinking it just spans and spreads so much deeper and wider than
many in the west, as you just put it. You know, they're already thinking of the next century. But, you know, you also said that these narratives
And I'm mindful of the fact that President Putin has developed a narrative of being disrespected, or -- you know, the former Soviet Union, today's
Russia, disrespected relatively by the west. The sort of, victim narrative. The false narrative that the Ukraine war is based on NATO's dangerous
expansion that would threaten Russia. And I'm wondering whether you see that kind of narrative forming in China today as whether they believe it or
as a reason for getting stronger and stronger and more and more nationalistic.
TSU: Well, I think -- unfortunately, I think since the last administration under Trump that there has -- there's a reason for many Chinese to become
disillusioned of the western model that has so aspired to emulate in the early 1980s. And certainly, the victimization narrative is always -- has a
very unelectable (ph) presence in the Chinese mind.
However, in Chinese nationalist history, the idea of victimhood was not abject and disempowering. It was actually a way of inspiring themselves and
aspiring to be better, to be stronger, but always cast in the sense that in the world that they would be better. That they would better leaders than
the west once they do come into power.
So, I think that kind of narrative is very powerful, right? If you are speaking from the perspective of the underdog, it's much more useful than a
victors' narrative. We've only enjoyed prosperity and positivity, in which I think is kind of the story of the west by this point.
AMANPOUR: So, then what do you think China actually wants? Does it want to rival and surpassed the only superpower that is left right now? Does it
want to equal it? You know, China is plugged in wherever we look. I mean, it controls, in certain ways, such huge swaths of Africa, its present in
Latin America, it's present literally all over the place. It's got the belt and road scheme. It's very, very ingrained in so much of the rest of the
world. What does China want?
TSU: Stability, domestic -- political stability, economic growth. And I would say -- let me put it this way. There's a very easy way of
understanding how China's world view maybe different from United States, just one -- just geographically speaking. China's borders 14 countries and
six by sea. The United States is surrounded by -- protected by two bodies of water, and a navy to the north and a navy to the south.
Now, China has traditionally, long before, it had to deal with the west. It had traditionally been very concerned with stability on the frontiers and
borders. So, Eurasian frontier, I think also partly explains is -- now close alliance with Russia is very much part of its experience of how to
stabilize its fairing influence.
AMANPOUR: And so, how should the U.S. deal with China, then? Of course, the United States, as you know, President Biden has said, we seek
competition but not conflict. We know that NATO, for the first time, has labeled China a challenge and they are concerned about the whole sort of
strategic balance as they try to, you know, figure out what to do with Russia or et cetera.
What should the United States do? It's true that President Biden has kept some of the more hard-lined policies that President Trump came up with, you
know, trade problems and protectionists and things like that. What should they do?
TSU: I think, first of all, there needs to be more conversation. I think diplomacy has often fell out of the picture. It is very important to put
human back into the loop. And as we see from the spy balloon incident, the speed and pace at which is spun into an international diplomatic incident
shows that there's not enough conversational channels for talking through things, to slow down the reaction time, because there's a difference
between escalating threats or perceived tension. and responding to anticipated threat. And I hope that we can build on the latter.
AMANPOUR: So, look, we -- I assume then you think it was, you know, not the -- I don't know, not the best thing in the world to do for the
secretary of state to cancel his trip, but, you know, when the spy balloon thing was going on, we heard, we were told that when Defense Secretary
Lloyd Austin tried to contact his Chinese opposite number, the defense minister there, he was unavailable. Where -- you know, so, they --
apparently, they don't want to talk either.
TSU: Well, I'm not sure if -- we don't have all the information on that one. But I would say that we -- this is an example of how we also
overestimate when we think about how China has his finger in every pie, has a highly controlled centralized state, there's also a lot of problems
within. The communication is not great. In fact, in this -- in the -- now, we are in the third day or so of the people's -- of the National People's
Congress, we know that one of the challenges is to trim down bureaucracy, to streamline.
So, China has considerable headwind at home and I think that is something that we forget, even though the United States, as well, has lots of
problems at home to deal with. But when we look at our adversary, we look at our nemesis, we tend to project our greatest fear into making them into
something that is more invincible than we are.
AMANPOUR: Do you think the United States and China are on a collision course over Taiwan? You just mentioned what's very significant to the
Chinese', among other things, the economy, but it's projected to be less robust than they thought, while at the same time, they have announced a
much bigger defense budget than they had in the past.
You just heard maybe Admiral Mullins saying, you know, he doesn't think Xi Jinping wants a war over that, but if he thinks he has to and that Taiwan
is, you know, threatened in his view, that he might do.
TSU: Actually, as for the defense budget, 7.2 percent, I think there's a difference between nominal (ph) and real terms. So, it actually comes up.
If both targets are hit in terms of GDP and CBI, I think it actually comes out to about same matches of growth in the economy.
TSU: But I would say that, you know, this is something -- again, I would emphasize that we need to put (INAUDIBLE), we need more conversation, that
in some ways that this conflict, this rivalry, in some ways, we're just settling down, I think, into the true phase of competition. I think we're -
- this has been an age of disillusionment. We had our phase of -- it's like a marriage gone bad and we think -- we're still in the period of building a
case against one another and having acrimonious exchanges.
But I think it is not a marriage that can go away, that the two sides will have to find some common ground. And of course, that would not preempt
AMANPOUR: So, I don't know whether this is -- he would say that, wouldn't he, but the outgoing premier, Li Keqiang, said on Sunday at this Congress,
we should persist in implementing our party's overall policy on the new era of resolving the Taiwan question. Firmly adhere to the one China principle
in the 1992 consensus and firmly take resolute steps to oppose Taiwan independence and promote reunification.
What would your -- what's your assessment of that?
TSU: I think that Taiwan is a very special case for many in China as we know. Considers (ph) a renegade government. They've also had a long
relationship since 1949 or since '92, as you quoted, that there is -- there was a way for them to at least tolerate or work together or have some kind
of non-conflict relationship.
And it's true that only in recent years has it escalated. And I have to say from Taiwan's perspective, no matter what happens, if there is a conflict,
if there is a war, Taiwan will suffer more than anyone. The Washington, D.C. is 8,000 miles away, Beijing is only 1,000 miles away. And we're over
-- I think for Taiwan, it is tough. It is tough to have a big powerful friend who wants to stick up for you.
And I think that's also an issue for, you know, whether it can say no or whether it can mitigate, and whether -- you know, that we still have the
1979 Taiwan Relations Act, right, where it says that we -- that United States will not intervene militarily. We would supply and give them sort of
-- a strategic ambiguity, as the policy that's worked pretty well for a few decades. And I think what all three sides need is time.
AMANPOUR: Yes. OK. So, one last question, which is back to, you know, what you do. You are a professor of East Asian literature at Yale. And I wanted
to know, what do we -- what -- is there a big reading culture? Are there a lot of books? Is there a literary culture there that we should know about?
TSU: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think Chinese are among the most avid readers and learners in the world. And I say that -- and there's a reason
why it has the largest written heritage, which is was why it was particularly important when I wrote "Kingdom of Characters," it's
particularly important to document that history, of how important it is to import that whole writing system into modern day.
AMANPOUR: Amazing. So, interesting. Professor Jing Tsu, thank you so much for being with us.
TSU: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Three years ago, as the World Health Organization was preparing to declare COVID-19 a pandemic, scientists were already weeks into
developing a vaccine. Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett was part of a groundbreaking team to produce the mRNA vaccine for Moderna. And she is joining Walter
Isaacson to reflect on the early days of the pandemic and the future of vaccine research.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Christiane. And Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, welcome to the show.
DR. KIZZMEKIA CORBETT, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, IMMUNOLOGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES AND HARVARD CHAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Thank you so much.
ISAACSON: So, I think it was probably New Year's Eve, right before this virus started spreading in early 2020, when you've got a call or an e-mail
saying, hey, we got to be aware of this thing that might be happening in China. Tell me how you sprang into action in January and February of 2020.
DR. CORBETT: It was actually an e-mail, December 31, 2019, from my then boss, Dr. Barney Graham. And I think that the news article just said that
27 people had become sick in Wuhan, China from a supposed respiratory illness. And so, we had no idea that it was a coronavirus. But what we did
know is that if it were a coronavirus, we had something that might be of help in -- by way of this type of vaccine technology.
And so, I left my mom's house in North Carolina and I drove back to Bethesda and we essentially just got to work.
ISAACSON: And how did you get to work? I know the Chinese eventually published sort of the coding, let us say, of the coronavirus and the spike
protein? What did you do once you found that coding?
DR. CORBETT: Right. So, they published the sequence of the coronavirus, I believe it was January 10, 2020. And at that point, what you can do is you
can look at the sequence and you can say, oh, look, here is the piece of the virus that is the spike protein. Let us use that piece of the virus,
that spike protein, and add the mutations that are necessary to make it stable and serve that spike protein sequence inside of a messenger RNA.
Wrap it into a lipid (ph) and delivered it to people as a vaccine. And that's what we did.
ISAACSON: The mRNA serves as a messenger, it goes into your cell and says, build protein. That is what mRNA does, done for about a few million years,
I would guess, right?
DR. CORBETT: Yes.
ISAACSON: And -- but you tell it to build a spike protein. Why?
DR. CORBETT: Because the spike protein, if you think -- see my hand here? If this hand is a virus and this is the inside of the virus, these fingers
are spike proteins, and they are the things that go and grab on to your cells inside of your body. So, if you want to block an infection or if you
want to impede an infection or slow down an infection, you want to teach your body how to recognize those fingers.
And so, all you have to do is say, look, cells, this is what the spike protein looks like. And that's basically what the mRNA does, it teaches
your cells how to make that spike protein and then, teaches your -- and then, it makes antibodies to enable to block that spike protein.
ISAACSON: And you've been an expert at spike proteins and how mRNA can create them. Tell me how you worked with the people at Moderna, other
places, when you were at the NIH, to make the exact vaccine that they were using.
DR. CORBETT: Tons of people were involved, actually. I was at the National Institute of Health, as you said. Researchers at the University of Texas
Austin were involved in engineering the S2P portion of the spike protein. Over the years we worked with researchers at the UNC Chapel Hill.
Obviously, we worked with Moderna, which is a company that has this proprietary messenger RNA platform.
So, what happened when this pandemic began is that we all came together and we said, we have to do something because we have been studying this for too
long and we know exactly what to do. So, we all got our brains together and -- at the NIH and Moderna, we said, we are going to make a vaccine that
includes that spike protein in the mRNA platform, because it would be able to make a good immune response, as we've been showing in MICE over the
years, and it would be fast to be able to manufacture because Moderna is really good at making this type of vaccine.
ISAACSON: Another great woman pioneer in this biotechnology was Katalin Kariko who helped come up with the concept of how the mRNA could work in
human cell, along with a lot of other people. Explain how you built on her work.
DR. CORBETT: Right. So, the work that she did over -- really, an entire career, when she was at, I believe, the University of Pennsylvania, she did
work that basically showed how we might be able to use messenger RNA in the body and allow it to hide from the body so that you could present a protein
like the spike protein to the body and get a really good immune response.
And so, that work they pioneered over UPenn over the course of even 20 years, and especially in the last decade, prior to the pandemic, that
really allowed for us to build on. And that's one thing about science is that there's never one isolated aha moment. Everybody's work across the
globe comes together when it's important like this, something like a pandemic. So, we are able to build off of each other's knowledge.
ISAACSON: And it was really in record time that the vaccine was developed, right?
DR. CORBETT: I think 66 days. This particular vaccine went into clinical trial following the release of that sequence.
ISAACSON: Tell me what it was like for you having helped develop this vaccine when you first got to take the vaccine.
DR. CORBETT: Oh, man. Wow. I haven't been asked that question in a very long time. But it was a very emotional moment I think for me and so many
other people. I took my vaccine at the NIH, in the clinical center, and I just remember feeling relief and hopeful again. And it was also one of
those times where I hadn't seen as many people as that were lined up to get their vaccines. And so, I was also not feeling as isolated or lonely in
that moment. And it just -- yes. I can't even describe how thankful I was for that vaccine.
ISAACSON: I know you don't really get involved in the politics of things, but there has been such politicization of this vaccine. Do you think
scientists could have and can do a better job of explaining science to the public and be more open in the way they explain it?
DR. CORBETT: I absolutely do. I think we are all learning. I think many scientists, including myself, we're kind of thrust into the media in this
moment. We became a voice for our work in a way that's really different than how we are normally speaking. Generally, I am speaking to faculty or
students at, you know, universities like the one that I work.
But having to speak to the community and having to understand and listen also, even more over to the community, is a skill that we are all still
learning. And so, I think with practice, we will all get there. I also think it wouldn't hurt for us to not only talk to the community but to
continue to talk to and remind politicians about our data as well on an ongoing basis as well. It's all about keeping the lines of communication
ISAACSON: And what would you like to communicate now, now that this -- we are sort of getting into the new phase, we are about to get out of the
emergency phase of COVID, what do you think scientists should be communicating about the need for virus vaccinations in the future?
DR. CORBETT: I think the one thing that I'd really like to see moving forward is that we keep the conversation around vaccine education and how
vaccines can really help health outcomes open, right? It's not just the COVID-19 vaccine, every single year we have, you know, seasonal influenza
shots, there is an entire portfolio of infant vaccinations.
You know, I just took my Tdap booster, for example, the other day. So, there's always a vaccine that people need to know about and keeping those -
- the lines of communication open around them, also letting people know about vaccines that might be on the horizon before they come out is also
very important, you know. In this moment, people were learning about a vaccine technology being developed kind of in their face.
And so, I think it allowed people to make real-time decisions about whether they chose to get the vaccine or not. And I think that that's really
important. Waking up one day and being called by your doctor and saying, oh, now we have an RSV vaccine, would you like to take it? I think that is
the wrong way to go about it. We need to be informing people in real-time, all the time, about the science.
ISAACSON: So, what vaccines should we be looking forward to? You've mentioned RSV.
DR. CORBETT: RSV. I am really excited about it. I'm excited about it because a lot of the work that went into developing that vaccine actually
came from the laboratory and my collaborators and Dr. Barney Graham, Jason McLellan. And that work actually really was a step stool to the work that
we did with coronaviruses. And so, I really trust and wholeheartedly believe in that technology.
So, RSV. I think probably sooner than later, we will have a new and improved flu vaccines that will start to come out. Oh, man. There's tons of
vaccines in the pipeline.
ISAACSON: You've been involved in clinical trials, I was part of a clinical trial for the mRNA vaccine myself.
DR. CORBETT: Oh really? Thank you.
ISAACSON: And it was sort of fun. It felt like you are contributing to society a bit.
DR. CORBETT: Yes.
ISAACSON: Can you tell people why they should maybe volunteer to be part of the clinical trials?
DR. CORBETT: So, you know, I actually don't like to tell people that they should volunteer or not volunteer for a clinical trial. But what I do like
to say to people is that, the participation in clinical trials is always, always something that is available to you. If you find yourself wanting to
give back, really interested in new medical technologies or new medicines, if you find yourself really connected to a particular disease, you can go
to clinicaltrials.gov and you can search that disease, you can search that medical ailment, you can search that medicine. And most likely, there is a
clinical trial site near you and you can participate.
And it is a great way to give back to science and medicine, if you so feel inclined. There -- I always like to remind people that clinical trials are
consented, in order to run a clinical trial, obviously, there's tons of regulatory hurdles that one might -- had to go through to run a clinical
trial. And to ask all the questions that you want, I love when people ask questions.
But you are right, you know, myself, I started participating in clinical trials back when I was in graduate school over 10 years ago. And at this
point, I have participated in over 100, for various different reasons. If I -- I got a really good friend in D.C. who had sickle cells. So, I started
to participate and donate cells to sickle cell patients.
I do it because I feel like it is a way for me to give back and I feel like it also helps me to become more informed about the process as my vaccines
go into clinical trial.
ISAACSON: As a kid growing up in North Carolina, how did you get interested in biotechnology?
DR. CORBETT: Oh, man. Really, you know, by chance. I got really interested in science by doing an internship in a chemistry laboratory when I was in
high school. And it is a really unique job to have, right? I get to come to like this beautiful office every day. I get to have people who are working
in my laboratory who are excited about data. I get to inform vaccine breakthroughs. I get to, you know, make history and talk to you and talk to
the general public.
And I think, for me, I would not know what else I would want to do, and that became very clear to me even when I was in high school.
ISAACSON: I've noticed with this revolution in the life sciences it's been led in many ways by a lot of women. But there are very few people of color,
very few young black students when I would go around the biochemistry labs in this country. What can we do to encourage people to become part of this
and to help make sure that there is greater diversity in the field?
DR. CORBETT: You know, this question always comes from how can we encourage people to do more, and it's really more so how can we make our
environments, the labs, the universities, the biotech companies, the hospitals more inclusive so that everybody, not just black students, but
everyone feels like, this is a place where I can work.
And for me, I think that, moreover that anything that anyone could have done to convince me to be a scientist, I went to that lab that summer in
high school, and I left saying, wow, this is a place that I can work. I was welcomed there. I was taught. I -- the way that I spoke as a southern black
girl was appreciated and understood. There are just small details about inclusion that we have to get better at in order to influence people to
take on any kind of job, particularly in science.
ISAACSON: You know how viruses spread better than anybody, what do you feel about these studies that now shall mask-wearing maybe had no influence
DR. CORBETT: I think that the data, by and large, suggests that masks, when worn, when there is large levels of community transmission, impede the
spread and the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.
You know, I think that -- with studies, right, the way that you analyze your data, your population subset, there are little small details that can
change the outcome of the study. But as I always say to anyone who has a question about masks or has a question about how they can't -- they just
absolutely will not most likely come into -- in contact with the virus, when in doubt, where a mask.
And, you know, masks don't care what variant it is, they're going to block it whether it's Omicron or Delta. And so, it is a fail-safe way and a
public health measure that is a precaution when you are worried about transmission.
ISAACSON: Part of your research, and I think you are on the patents of some things like this, would involve a universal coronavirus vaccine so we
wouldn't have to get a different one for every variant that comes along. Explain to me how we could create one that's universal, one that goes after
DR. CORBETT: I do have work that informs universal coronavirus vaccine development, and there are certainly several different approaches. You can
take the approach of those spike proteins giving people multiple different types of spike proteins so that they make a broader response. That's
generally more or less the type of approach that we have been interested in and many other people have been interested in.
But, you know, I like to remind everyone as far as universal technologies, vaccine technologies are concerned, it's still a long way out. And so, we
are not promising that we'll have universal technology tomorrow, but we are all working on it.
ISAACSON: Having gone through these three years of COVID, tell me what you've learned about what should be done to improve either biomedical
research system or our even health systems in America?
DR. CORBETT: So, I think, you know, one thing that I have learned is that we have all of the small tools embedded in our system already. The one good
thing about this pandemic is that we had no option but for each of those subsets to come together and work together.
So, you know, you saw the National Institutes of Health working with the CDC and you saw just, you know, different organizations coming together.
You saw doctors working with scientists and just all of these little pieces, all of this has to be a very concerted and collaborative effort in
order to get the job done, from A to Z.
ISAACSON: Dr. Corbett, thank you so much for joining us.
DR. CORBETT: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Working together is so often the key. And finally, tonight, a historic blue deal. I took over 20 years to reach, but this weekend, nearly
200 countries agreed on the first ever treaty to protect the world's oceans that lie outside national boundaries. The U.N. High Seas Treaty will place
30 percent of the world's oceans in protected areas. A lot more funds to marine conservation and set new rules for mining at sea. Environmental
groups say the treaty will greatly help in preserving biodiversity.
And speaking of preservation, archaeologists recently found perfectly preserved spices from the wreck of a royal ship that sank 500 years ago off
the coast of Sweden's Baltic Coast. Now, the spices would have been a symbol of high status and included strands of saffron, peppercorn and
cloves. If you ask me it sounds like the makings of a wonderful pilaf, working together.
That is it for now. And 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
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You can also find it at cnn.com/podcast and on all major platforms, just search AMANPOUR. And remember you can always catch us online. Facebook,
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Thank you for watching and goodbye from New York.