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Taliban Claim Control Over Final Holdout Province; Taliban Accused of Murdering Pregnant Policewoman; Sequoias Threatened by Fires and Climate Change. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired September 07, 2021 - 01:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Vause. Coming up this hour, the last read out to a total Taliban takeover has now fallen. And with the hardline, Islamic extremists firmly in control, they'll exit to announce a new government, as reports grow of increasing violence against women.

From bad to worse, you have flash flood concerns for areas recovering from Ida. We're live at the CNN Weather Center and the power of a Marvel superhero held the latest blockbusters, Shang-chi is impacting life way beyond the theater.

If the schedule is right, and just over an hour, America's most senior diplomat will sit down with his counterpart in Qatar, a country that played a key role in the U.S. civilian airlift from Afghanistan. The discussion this time will focus on future relations with Afghanistan and how to respond to a new Taliban rule.

A week after U.S. forces ended a total and unconditional withdrawal, the Taliban military success continues with the takeover of the final stronghold of resistance to Panjshir province. But the leader of the National Resistance Front, the last real anti-Taliban force in Afghanistan, says this fight is not over. He's calling on Afghans to join a national uprising.

CNN's Anna Coren has covered Afghanistan for many years. She was recently in Kabul. She joins us now live from Hong Kong. So, the Taliban explosively announcing that they form some kind of government, any future relationship between the U.S. and Afghanistan, and Qatar and Afghanistan, for that matter, would likely depend on what they got, but looks like, so what are the expectations?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What the government looks like, and also how the Taliban behaves? This is going to be a sticking point, certainly, for the United States and other foreign countries in dealing with the Taliban. We know that this government is going to need foreign aid, desperately need foreign aid. It's a country that's facing a humanitarian crisis. It's facing drought, is one of the most impoverished countries in the world. So, this aid desperately needed. As you mentioned, U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken has arrived in Doha, Qatar, and he will be having talks with the Qataris as to how to proceed with the Taliban. Obviously, the Qataris have been a mediator, if you like, certainly with the Taliban, they have hosted the Taliban for many years. And they've also had a strong relationship with the Americans. So, they will play this intermediary role moving forward.

From Qatar, Antony Blinken will then move on to Germany. This is considered, John, thank you tour, if you not -- if you'd like I should say. The Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, he's also heading to the golf, he'll go to Qatar onto that Saudi Arabia and visit other countries as well. But as I mentioned, this is a way for the Americans to establish a channel. But this is going to come down to how the Taliban deals with basic things like human rights, women's rights. This is all very critical.

VAUSE: And it's not looking good right now. Anna, thank you. Anna Coren live for us in Hong Kong.

According to a Taliban spokesman, women have been allowed, a limited return to work. Right now, just jobs in health care, and education. More professions, he says will be added soon. But life in the capital has changed dramatically compared to one month ago. Lindsey Hilsum from the UK's Channel 4 News has that report.


LINDSEY HILSUM, CHANNEL 4 NEWS (voice-over): Taliban fighters in Kabul freshly arrived from their victory in the Panjshir Valley, crews the streets and rule the roost, young bucks with newly acquired American weapons. It's their moment, their city, their country.

This morning, they raised the Taliban flag in the Panjshir Provincial Capital. They've defeated the last resistance. The late warlord Ahmad Shah Massoud, the lion of the Panjshir looks down from the walls of the provincial governor's office as the Talib celebrate.

Back in the 1990s, the Taliban never defeated his militia. But today they say they vanquished fighters under the command of his son. That's a hospital run by the Italian NGO emergency. The wards are full of injured people. A few years back, Haji Asadullah son was paralyzed by a stray bullet. He himself was one of a few people wounded in crossfire as the Taliban entered Kabul three weeks ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Since the day I was born, my only wish has been for a peaceful country. We want peace and security. We don't want to fight. We don't like fighting. We like peace and security.


HILSUM: But the legacy of conflict is poverty. About 600 families who fled their homes in the provinces, a surviving in a filthy field on the outskirts of the capital. Abdul Malik (ph) and his family fled back land after his home was blown up in fighting. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): The war is over, but I have noting to go back for. I don't even have 10 Afghanist to buy bread. What can I do? If I go home, where should I stay? All I would find is my destroyed home. I have nothing. We are four people and all we have is God and this tent.

HILSUM: Everyone wants to tell me their story, no food, no work, sons killed. 5 million Afghans have been displaced in two decades of war. The U.N. says 18 million, nearly half the population will need humanitarian assistance this year.

(On camera): Some people here have fled war, others have fled poverty, but most have fled both. They have lives of terrible deprivation. This camp was bigger about a week ago because some people feel that they can now go home because the war is over. But the people I've been speaking to say they don't dare go home. And although violence may now be decreasing, because of the terrible economic problems that the Taliban is facing, poverty is only going to get worse, and the humanitarian needs greater than ever.

(Voice-over): Yesterday, the head of the U.N. Humanitarian Agency flew to Kabul to meet the Taliban.

GRIFFITHS: I think that's surprised that they are where they are today. I think we're going to get quite difficult questions of their capacity to rule in terms of humanitarian issues in the coming weeks. I came here 23 years ago, to negotiate the same issues with the Taliban, in Kabul in 1998. They're different now. Clearly from then, they're making the right noises, they're making commitments.

HILSUM: But some people say by doing all this, you're just normalizing these people. And it should not be normalized.

GRIFFITHS: Humanitarians don't normalize. Humanitarian community does not recognize. Humanitarian community has focused on one thing and one thing alone, and that's delivering to the people in need what they need at the right time.

HILSUM: Every day, hundreds of people crowd around the banks. They're not getting salaries and can only withdraw a limited amount from their savings. The middle class are becoming poor, and the poor are becoming destitute.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): Security is good now, but the new government ... The economy is really bad, so what will our future be? Teachers and doctors aren't working ... People are facing many problems.

HILSUM: The Taliban are enjoying themselves. But running a country isn't the same as winning a war and forcing your ideology on people won't feed their families will soon find out what really matters to Afghanistan's new rulers.


VAUSE: Our thanks to Lindsey Hilsum for that report. And it seems some defiant and brave women in Afghanistan are not ready to turn the clock back 20 years.

In Mazar-i-Sharif Monday, more than a dozen women staged a protest march chanting and holding signs saying women cannot be eliminated and give women rights. Meantime, a Taliban spokesman posted this video on Twitter Monday, apparently a group of women showing their support for the Taliban.

Here's a glimpse of the new normal at Kabul University. Gender guidelines have male and females in their own groups separated by a curtain. Heroes also includes separate entrances for men and women, limits on the number of women allowed in a class. Details have also emerged about the murder of a pregnant policewoman, Taliban leaders denied any involvement but her son, says Taliban fighters stabbed her to death in front of her family over the weekend.


MOHAMMAD HANIL, SON OF MURDERED AFGHAN POLICEWOMAN (through translation): They killed our mother before our eyes. The only thing that makes me very sad and suffer is that my mother was eight months pregnant. They in fact carried out two murders. The government should do something and find these people who were they and why they did this. If the government doesn't bring justice, then we might have to take the law into on hand.


VAUSE: Rina Amiri is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. She has also worked as a U.N. and a U.S. diplomat. And she is with us this hour from New York. Rina, thank you very much for your time.

RINA AMIRI, FORMER U.S. AND U.N. DIPLOMAT: Thank you for having me.

VAUSE: Well, Taliban leaders have denied responsibility for that brutal stabbing of a policewoman who is eight months pregnant, she was killed. Witness reports, they all seem to point to Taliban fighters as the ones who did it. But there are Taliban fighters who are speaking Arabic. They don't speak a lot of Arabic in Afghanistan and this big push to for the most part, it's kind of like an Afghan Persian they call it. So, what does that say about who these fighters are?

AMIRI: Yeah, know that -- yes, you're absolutely right, and I've got some language, the main languages are (inaudible), people do not speak Arabic. And I think what it points to something quite alarming, it's it corroborates what we're hearing from the resistance movement, for example, in Panjshir and other places, including President Ghani before he fled, where he noted that there's an invasion not just of the Taliban, but of Jihadi and terrorist groups from many parts of the world. So, it clearly shows that they are not able to manage the situation on the ground, that there are many different elements that are preying on the population, and that women in particular are extremely vulnerable.

This woman in particular, she's a Hazara woman, and which makes her doubly vulnerable as a minority and as a woman, and she was like many professional Afghan women, where she was taking a risk, particularly in a job as a policewoman. But she was doing it for her family. She had a family, she was pregnant. And she was in an incredibly vulnerable position. But she had no other choice but to do what she was doing. And these women are putting a terrifying position where they have to provide for their family. But every time that they -- even if the Taliban actually guarantee -- provides reassurances that they can work, they face tremendous risk right now.

VAUSE: So even when we hear those conciliatory statements coming from the Taliban leadership, about respecting women's rights, even if that is not being made with a wink and a nod to the Taliban fighters, even if those statements are genuine, they're nasty, some real questions about whether or not those directors and those orders or those statements are being followed by, you know, Taliban fighters far away from Kabul, there just doesn't seem to be the control there. And that's another major concern right now that women have in an already dangerous situation.

AMIRI: That's right. And it's not just -- it's even in Kabul, you know, despite the fact, that the Taliban have said that there are instructing their fighters to respect the population and to not be disruptive to women who are outside. I personally have been speaking to women, where they say that that is not the case in for many of them that there are Talibs who are coming to their houses, interrogating them, that they are being demanded. There's just an extra vigilance and extra -- there's just this Arab intimidation and threat that is very, very real to women throughout the country right now. So yes, even if the Taliban are genuine in terms of their commitments to not to grant women at least a modicum of rights. So far, what they're demonstrating is that they're not able to rein in their fighters and to be able to deliver on those promises.

VAUSE: There are also a number of reports that dress codes have been imposed at universities, obviously, for women, they must wear an abaya which covers the entire body, and also niqab which covers the face. Some have been seen without their faces covered, you know, but essentially, they're breaking the rules. They don't have a choice in this, a lot of women are voluntarily wearing the burqas, if you like, sort of preemptively. Explain the impact, though, that this has in terms of repression, how does it affect the way women over time perceive themselves and how they act?

AMIRI: Well, first, one thing that is really striking to the population are these are foreign elements. These are completely foreign to the Afghan culture. The niqab is not something that was ever worn throughout Afghan history, by women and even in the most traditional places. And as much as women say that it's not about dress, it's about their rights. It's about being able to get access to education, to work, to be able to operate in public space without having to go out with an escort, Maram, which is what it's called then (inaudible). The feeling that there's going to be an imposition on their rights and that there's going to be even further that this is going to be brought in from outside Afghanistan, it all feels very alien, both to women and men.

[01:15:13] VAUSE: Rina, you mentioned some excellent points and some lot to think about. So, thank you very much for being with us. We really appreciate it.

AMIRI: Thank you very much.

VAUSE: Still to come, the U.S. Gulf Coast now facing new threats of flooding. What this means for those areas already devastated by Hurricane Ida. Also, how climate change is threatening another of the world's greatest natural treasures?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The biggest worry for me is we have two fires burning right now that are threatening groves that we have not been able to treat.



VAUSE: In New Orleans five bodies have been found inside senior apartment complexes. Though found during wellness checks after Hurricane Ida. Cause of death is under investigation. The buildings are said to be in deplorable condition.

Meantime, across parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast, the risk of flooding continues for areas which were completely devastated by either flash flood watches are no longer in effect across the area. But more rain, more storms are in the forecast, any slow-moving thunderstorm could exacerbate flooding problems which residents are now facing. In addition, nearly 500,000 customers across the Gulf Coast remain without electricity, face another day of searing temperatures. Meteorologist Tyler Mauldin is live for us with more on this. It is hot, it is miserable, and it's not getting better.

TYLER MAULDIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's not and as you mentioned, we have about 500,000 people that are without power. And there are some parishes down in Southeast Louisiana, John, that are still almost at 100% without power. When you add in the heat, the humidity and it just feels terribly uncomfortable outside, and you don't have power that's dangerous. Right now, we have relative humidity values that are just through the roof right now because we have Gulf moisture streaming in all the way down from basically the Yucatan. So, this is rich tropical air flowing in, which is making the air temperature feel much warmer than what the thermometer is reading.

Now there is some drier air up here to the north, but that air is not going to make its way down, the humidity and all that moisture is going to continue to flow from southwest and northeast right over Southeast Louisiana. Not only does that spill the humidity increasing exponentially, but it also means that we'll continue to see scattered thunderstorms flowing over. That is problematic because this picture was just taken on Sunday, we still have flooded areas and we have areas of standing water, so it's not going to take much to cause these areas to swell even more, these waters that continue to swell. And over the next seven days. We could see up to, I would say about 50 to seven 75 millimeters of rain here in Southeast Louisiana. And then you can also see about 25 to 50 millimeters going into portions of Southern Mississippi and even southern Alabama too, some of the areas that were hit extremely hard by Ida as well.


Now, some of you may have heard us talking about potential tropical development in the Gulf of Mexico. I bring this up, because I want to assure everyone that's living in Louisiana, and in Mississippi, that this disturbed area that the National Hurricane Center is watching and highlighting for development, which they give a 30% chance of development is not going to affect Louisiana. All right, so you're not looking at another potentially landfalling tropical system. We're going to see this system move over Florida and eventually once it gets into the Atlantic, John, there it could possibly develop into our next name storm, which would be Monday, but Louisiana does not have to worry about this one.

VAUSE: Tyler, thank you very much. Tyler Mauldin with the very latest from the CNN Weather Center.

And over the weekend, just as firefighters in Northern California made significant progress contained the huge Caldor Fire. Three new fires began after the heatwave forecast for later this week.

Well, for 2000 years, maybe even longer, California giants are close have survived and thrived. But now one of the world's greatest natural resources are more vulnerable than ever to the threat of fire. Stephanie Ilam has the story.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): From their size --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: General Sherman is 275 feet tall, holy cow.

ILAM: To their longevity.

CLAY JORDAN, SUPERINTENDENT, SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS: You know, before the ancient Rome before Christ, I mean, these trees were mature.

ILAM: Much about giant sequoia trees is on a grand scale. With that distinctive red brown bark covering their thick trunks, sequoia trees can only be found in California, Sierra Nevada Mountains.

SAM HODDER, PRESIDENT AND CEO, SAVE THE REDWOODS LEAGUE: This is a resilient tree. They are tough, almost nothing can kill them.

ILAM: But climate change is changing that shrinking the giant sequoias footprint.

HODDER: A giant sequoia that was first weakened by drought was then subject to impacts by the bark beetle, which then further weaken the tree and potentially made it more susceptible to mortality from fire. ILAM: The stag tree is said to be the fifth largest tree in the entire world. It's lived more than 3000 years. And yet we're seeing that wildfire is threatening these giant sequoias more than ever before.

JORDAN: The castle fire was a wake-up call an estimated 7500 to 10,600 trees were destroyed in that one fire alone.

ILAM: Started by lightning in August 2020, the Castle Fire was part of the Sequoia complex that burned more than 174,000 acres scorching several sequoia groves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was devastating, heartbreaking, everything had been incinerated. It was a field of the world's largest burned up toothpicks.

ILAM: After decades of suppressing forest fire, other trees and brush have grown rapidly around the sequoias.

HODDER: The fires that used to burn every five to 10 years and this year would just keep down the competition and reduce the fuel naturally.

ILAM: On land owned by the Save the Redwoods League, we hiked out to see just how deadly the Castle Fire was here.

TIM BORDEN, SAVE THE REDWOODS LEAGUE: For us to see 10 to 14% of the total of giant sequoias alive, killed in one year in one fire is there's nothing to compare that to.

ILAM: Yet fire in and of itself is not the enemy of the giant sequoia.

HODDER: Their cones open up, their seeds to start to germinate after a fire.

ILAM: So, near those last giants, where the fire wasn't too intense, small shoots of hope, take root.

BORDEN: What I see is a lot of these little baby giant sequoias that have sprouted up since the fire happened.

ILAM: Without an urgent response to the climate crisis, and increased forest maintenance, experts worry more of the ones seemingly impervious sequoias will be lost.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The biggest worry for me is we have two fires burning right now that are threatening groves that we have not been able to treat. The risk is still there.

ILAM: Stephanie Ilam, CNN in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.


VAUSE: Hundreds of medical journals have published a united call for action on climate change. The editorial points to establish links between the climate crisis and a wide range of adverse health effects over the past 20 years, warning the scientist unequivocal a global increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average and the continued loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse.


The editorial says current climate action is insufficient, and that despite the world's unnecessary preoccupation with COVID-19, we cannot wait for the pandemic to pass to rapidly reduce emissions.

They don't call him Trump of the tropics for nothing. On the eve of Independence Day in Brazil, growing concerns, the president down in the polls and facing a tough reelection is urging his supporters to stage a coup. And regime change at the barrel of a gun Guinea's coup leaders moved to consolidate their hold on path.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everyone. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN Newsroom. Guinea's coup leaders have promised to establish a transitional government after ousting President Alpha Conde. This is the third country in Western and Central Africa to say a military takeover in the past five months. It's raising concerns about a return to military rule and a move away from democracy. CNN, David McKenzie has details.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On Monday, the coup leaders in the West African nation of Guinea appear to consolidate their power. They held an extraordinary meeting where they invited, and I use that term, loosely senior government officials to chart the way forward for their rule.

Now the leader of the coup plotters said that they should have unity, that government services should continue. And, in fact, it is some signs of normalcy with a spokesperson of the coup leader saying that borders have now reopened. A very different scene on Sunday, dramatic scenes unfolding in the Capitol with sustained gunfire over several hours, according to witnesses that CNN spoke to where the President Alpha Conde was detained by those soldiers and then taken to an undisclosed location.

At this point, there has been condemnation from the African Union, the regional bloc ECOWAS and most western nations, in one case, calling it a power grab. But the outgoing president is unpopular in Guinea. He managed to extend presidential term limits. He was accused of corruption, and he won a very disputed poll last year. That being said, it's unclear if the pressure from outside nations will have any impact on the ground. That meeting with those leaders today in Conakry on Monday will give a bit of legitimacy to this incoming coup leaders, whether they can maintain that power remains to be seen.

David McKenzie, CNN, Johannesburg.




VAUSE: Myanmar's exiled national unity government has called for revolution against the military dictatorship. In a social media post, the acting president described the military as the people's enemy, urged everyone to report the army's movements and, when possible, attack.

CNN's Paula Hancocks live in Seoul with the very latest. This would seem to be a sign of desperation?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It does seem like that, John, and clearly it is a sign of desperation at this point. The fact that those who on the ground that are protesting against this military junta feel that nothing is changing, feeling that they can't get democracy back into their country and, according to one advocacy group, well over a thousand people have been killed so far. Although we have heard from the United Nations and from others that the actual number will be likely far higher.

So what the acting president of this National Unity Government has said is that there should be a revolution. It's something that has been talked about for some time, this D-Day, a fight back against the military junta.

And today is the day that it has been announced, saying that they should immediately attack the Min Aung Hlaing, this is the leader, the general who was behind this military coup, talking about attacking and abolishing the dictatorship, calling the military the enemy of the people.

Now of course, in the short term, what this could mean is we could see more lives lost. We could see more injuries on the streets of Myanmar.

We have been seeing smaller protests over recent weeks, certainly not the big protests that we saw at the beginning since the military has been firing indiscriminately into the crowds, we have seen video evidence of and has been confirmed by the United Nations and others as well.

So we are seeing more of these flash mobs, more protests that dispersed quickly as soon as there is any indication that the military is coming. But what we are understanding now from this social media announcement by the acting president is that he does want to see a more forceful push against the military. And it comes as of an interesting time, John, given that next week at the United Nations General Assembly, there will be a decision, a recommendation as to which entity should take up the U.N. seat for Myanmar.

There was a U.N. ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, who was critical of the military coup. He was fired by the military, but he is still claiming to be the U.N. ambassador for Myanmar. So that will be a crucial time as well as the United Nations effectively decides who it should recommend being the leader in Myanmar, John.

VAUSE: Paula, thank you. Paula Hancocks for us live in Seoul.

Well, with an eye on a tough election next year, Brazil's president has introduced new regulations by decree on social media, specifically aimed at stopping what it described as the arbitrary removal of accounts and content. In reality critics say it would most likely make combating misinformation almost impossible. Some of the content flagged by social networks in recent include posts from the president himself.

The decree comes on the eve of Brazil's independence day in a series of planned rallies for and against the president. Bolsonaro is expected to lead demonstrations against the country's voting system in front of the Supreme court, that happens in the next few hours.

Well Marvel's new superhero had all the right moves to break the box office record in the U.S. this weekend. When we come back, why Shang- Chi is the perfect hero for a troubled time.



VAUSE: The actor best known for the role as Omar Little in HBO's "The Wire" has died. Michael K. Williams also appeared in TV hits like "Boardwalk" -- "Boardwalk Empire" rather and "Lovecraft Country".

54-year old Williams was found dead in his home on Monday with drug paraphernalia near the body. He had talked openly in the past about his struggle with substance abuse.

Celebrities and fans have taken to social media praising the complexity of humanity Williams brought to his many roles. And investigation into the cause of death is ongoing.

Well the first movie in Marvel Cinematic Universe to feature an Asian lead and predominantly Asian cast is also a blockbuster sensation. "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" shattered the U.S. box office record. More than $75 million over three days of the Labor Day weekend. More than $146 million worldwide according to "Variety". That tops the previous Labor Day weekend record by more than $45 million which was set back in 2007 by the movie "Halloween".

Jeff Yang is a columnist for "The Wall Street Journal". He's a frequent writer in the CNN Opinion as well as co-author of "I am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action". He joins us this hour from Staten Island in NEW YORK.

Jeff, thanks for being with.

JEFF YANG, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Thank you. My pleasure.

VAUSE: So whenever a movie like this comes out and it's huge -- it's a huge deal, it breaks new ground. There's often a discussion about whether it's a good movie or if this movie is good because it breaks the norms in terms of, you know, ending racist stereotypes and embracing diversity? It seems that maybe, you know, "Shang-Chi" has hit that sort of sweet

bond of being both.

YANG: Kind of twofer. Yes. Yes. It's a movie that I think anybody can just walk into and enjoy, connect with the characters, engage with its teams, but at the same time it really is breaking some new ground. And putting literally a new face on the very largest and most spectacular of genres -- the superhero story.

VAUSE: And that new face is Simu Liu. He plays the lead actor. And one of his first ever paid stunt jobs apparently, he was playing a nameless Asian guy who know martial arts but is taken out by the hero white guy.

That sort of role or other sort of racially-stereotyped roles were how Asians were seen on the big screen unless white actors don't like (ph) that role. Is this a change -- is this sort of a counter reaction if you like to racism we have seen against Asian Americans.

Or is this just about studios finally realizing there's a lot of money to be made here. The audiences out there are huge.

YANG: I think look, I have always felt that people aren't consciously racist so often as they are simply cautiously racist, right. Especially in places like Hollywood. It's not so much that they want to depict stereotypes, it's safer to do so or has been up until recently.

Now that there is actually clarity that there is demand to see diverse characters in stories that come from places very different from the ones that I think we've seen depicted over 50-odd years of Hollywood, all of a sudden people are just investing in places that they haven't before. And one of those place is Asian-American stories. And Shang- Chi is the result, yes.

VAUSE: It's sort of like (INAUDIBLE) bigotry of low expectations, isn't it?

YANG: Yes. Maybe a little bit harder than the softest of bigotries but certainly softer than the hardest of bigotries. And I think that's where we often land. I think that for Asian Americans, a lot of the time, it's really been about exclusion, as opposed to -- exclusion and absence essentially, as opposed to necessarily being outright targeted.

That's only something that we have seen kind of cyclically, when the tide kind of turns against us due to external effects. I mean for instance the coronavirus.

So of course, Shang-Chi is coming at a really powerful time for us as well. It's a time when we need heroes.


VAUSE: Yes. And in fact, you write this in "The New York Times" about this new Marvel superhero. "In his wake will come more Asian heroes. They are casting ensures that a generation of young Asian Americans will for the first time see themselves front and center, larger than life on the biggest of screens."

Ok. Here's a what if. What if the movie was a dud? What if the money and the box office was miserable and the reviews were even worse? How much is riding on this blockbuster to be just a blockbuster?

YANG: So this is the question we ask ourselves every single time that somebody takes a swing at doing an Asian-American centered story. It was true about "Fresh Off the Boat". It was true about "Crazy Rich Asians". And now here we are it's true about "Shang-Chi".

And it's funny because one of my closest friends, Phil Yu, I do a podcast with him, coined a term that really fits this. It's something that he would describe as the reps sweats (ph). Asian Americans or people of a certain group, just perspiring and worrying that this particular work is not going to work. And as a result, people saw fear and no longer do movies about our people, our stories, our characters ever again.

The truth is people don't ask that when you look at many other groups. For instance, a movie starring white characters doesn't work, people don't we're never going to do a movie about white characters again.

So I would like to think that we have passed that, but I also feel like hat we have had so much talent and so much opportunity that it's been pent-up that we are finally seeing the fruits of that really rollout.

VAUSE: But not everyone is happy about this movie. Here's a headline from "Shang-Chi crafted a fantastic bad ass fighter. Too bad the movie was all about her brother."

Marvel has a gender problem especially with women of color."

Does that mean you're now being mainstreamed?

YANG: We, I think, should welcome that we have finally gotten to a point where we can critique and debate these movies. It's no longer, I think, a situation where as I mentioned the sort of reputation of an entire community is dependent on the perfection of a certain piece.

I mean, you know, we're always going to have proper critiques and I think those are things that simply make us better when we listen to them.

So yes, you know, we have to look at these things and I think really welcome them as the next way that we can actually broaden the experience which include more people.

VAUSE: It really does sort of indicate there's an element of sort of, you know, welcome to the big leagues and mainstream whatever -- whichever way you want to put it. And it is a positive thing.

So Jeff, great to have you with us, we really appreciate your time. Thank you.

YANG: Thank you. I really enjoyed it.

VAUSE: And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm John Vause.

Please stay with us here on CNN. "INSIDE AFRICA" is up next.