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Biden, China's Xi To Meet Monday As Tensions Over Taiwan Rise; Ukrainian Group Distributes Special Gear For Female Troops; Tunnel Beneath Egyptian Temple May Lead To Cleopatra's Tomb. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired November 11, 2022 - 05:30   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: President Biden is set to hold his first face-to-face meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping since he took office, as world leaders are heading to Indonesia for the G20 summit. The high-stakes sit-down comes in the shadow of Russia's war on Ukraine, North Korea's recent missile tests, and tensions over Taiwan -- increasing tensions over Taiwan.

CNN's Selina Wang joins us live from Beijing. Selena, this meeting is going to be so closely watched because the buildup has been so intense here. And I know the White House has said they're really just trying to get a sense of where his red lines are. Biden has said he's not going to make any concessions in this meeting.

What do you expect is on the table from the Chinese side?

SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kaitlan. I mean, this is high-stakes but no breakthroughs expected here. The U.S. said so themselves that they're just trying to build a floor so that this relationship doesn't tip over into conflict.

The two men -- they do have a history. Biden has said many times before that they know each other well. But there are just too many fundamental differences here for one face-to-face meeting to solve that.

Now, the White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said quote, "The leaders will discuss efforts to maintain and deepen lines of communication between the United States and the PRC, responsibly manage competition, and work together where our interests align."

So on the table here is Taiwan, the war in Ukraine, concerns around human rights in China. Possibly, also areas where they could cooperate, like on climate change and North Korea. But going into this meeting there is just so much mutual distrust.

America has labeled China -- the Biden administration -- as America's most consequential geopolitical challenge. Whereas, Beijing sees Washington as trying to contain and suppress its rise. The most recent example they point to are those sweeping chip sanctions from the Biden administration that choke off China's access to these advanced chips, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: One other thing, though, that I didn't hear you mention was that recent trip that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took to Taiwan. Obviously, it caused this uproar from China. They were so furious about that trip.

Do you expect that that's something that the Chinese president is going to bring up with Biden?

WANG: Yes, Kaitlan. And shortly before her trip, remember, they had a phone call when Xi Jinping had warned Biden not to play with fire because those who play with fire will perish by it.

Now, the topic of Taiwan is going to be a top priority for this meeting because this is the area where there is the greatest risk for miscalculation that could tip over into actual conflict.

Now, Taiwan -- it is a self-governed, democratically-ruled island, but it is central to the very core of the DNA of the Communist Party that this idea Taiwan is a breakaway province that must be reunified. So going into this meeting, a lot of tensions, high stakes, low expectations.

COLLINS: Yes. I have a feeling we are going to hear the phrase 'strategic ambiguity' leading up to this.

Selina Wang, thanks so much for joining us.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I think you're right, Kaitlan.

Let's talk more about this with CNN co-hosts Bianca Nobilo and Max Foster. I mean, that is like the U.S. line, right, on Taiwan. But I think it's notable -- first time that Biden will sit down with Xi in person since Biden took office. And Biden himself has said no less than four times, clearly, the U.S. will defend Taiwan if it were to be attacked by China.

What are you looking for in this meeting?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, interesting from Kaitlan, actually, what sort of pictures we expect to get out of this because I think a lot of it -- you know, as we were hearing there from Selina, not much substance expected. So what we're looking for is body language. I mean, these are the two guys that could potentially start World War III. There's a lot of tension between them.

So is there any indication there that they -- that the tensions are being reduced or at least a sense that they are learning from each other and try to understand each other and get a greater sense of each other? And that's all going to come through the body language, isn't it?

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, you heard from Selina there the aim from the Biden administration is to find a flaw in the relationship. So that's the expectation management from the outset that's -- those aren't exactly high hopes for what we can expect from that summit.


I think one of the main objectives that President Biden will have going into this as well is just to reintroduce the U.S. and build trust with regional allies as well because America has retreated from the region.

If you think back in 1997 with the Asian financial crash, the U.S. imposed quite strict financial measures on the region. Then we had under George W. Bush -- because of the focus on the war on terror, Asia was almost completely neglected in terms of policy. Obama made all these overtures and promises to be more reassertive in the region but they didn't really materialize. And then under President Trump, you had this quite specific aggressive focus on Asia and trade.

So the goal here is to bring America back into the vacuum that's been created, which China is moving into in the region.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to focus on -- I mean, might this become a climate change summit considering the issues that China and the U.S. are dealing with when it comes to climate change?

FOSTER: Well, it's interesting. I mean, the cop (PH) for a lot of the language coming out of that is what's the point in any of this if we don't have China and the U.S. backing it? They are the two big emitters of carbon dioxide in the world and they're not talking about the issue, are they?

So these are two leaders that can resolve so many of the world's problems, which is why it's such a crucial meeting and why everyone's tiptoeing around it because they want any -- they don't the relationship to get any worse.

And also, off the back of the midterms, obviously, Biden is slightly empowered but it's nothing compared to Xi, who has got this third unprecedented term. He's got absolute control over his country. So he's empowered. How is he going to use that and how is Biden going to respond to it?

LEMON: Max, just --

NOBILO: Precisely. There just --

LEMON: I'm sorry, go ahead.

NOBILO: There isn't parity there.

LEMON: I'm sorry, Bianca.

NOBILO: I was just -- I was just going to say, Don, that there is not parity on that level and there never will be between a U.S. president and a Chinese president on that -- in that aspect. But in terms of the other issues that they're going to be discussing,

it's hard because there aren't any which automatically would be areas where there could be consensus between the two. There's obviously huge discrepancies on human rights, on democracy, on Taiwan, on tensions in the South China Sea. So there aren't very clear areas where some inroads could be made --


NOBILO: -- between these two superpowers.

LEMON: Yes. Max, I was just going to say --


LEMON: -- as a follow-up. I'm a little -- I'm not at Bianca but I'm a little disappointed in you this morning.


LEMON: Because he's wearing a tie. You let me down.

HARLOW: (Laughing)


NOBILO: Oh, yes -- look at that.

LEMON: What happened, Max?

FOSTER: Chaos.

NOBILO: You can't see it because of the camera but I am bringing the informality in my footwear, as you guys are all aware of. So there's a balance.

FOSTER: I like to dress up on Friday night getting ready to go out, you see.

NOBILO: Yes -- you're going to hit the town.

LEMON: Thank you, guys.

HARLOW: Thank you, guys.

LEMON: Hey, have a good weekend. Thank you so much.

HARLOW: Slippers -- that's what she's talking about -- slippers --

FOSTER: Indeed.

HARLOW: -- by the way.

NOBILO: You, too.

HARLOW: Thanks, Bianca. The top U.S. general estimates Russia and Ukraine both suffered on the battlefield. What he's now saying about the potential for peace talks.

COLLINS: Plus, a disturbing discovery at the construction site of former President Obama's presidential center. We are live in Chicago with the latest details.




GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: You're looking at maybe 15, 20, 30 million refugees. Probably 40,000 Ukrainian innocent people -- civilians have been killed as collateral damage. You're looking at well over 100,000 Russian soldiers killed and wounded. The same thing, probably, on the Ukrainian side. A lot of human suffering. And there's one guy that can stop it and his name is Vladimir Putin.


COLLINS: That staggering number coming from chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley. It is the highest estimate yet on how many Russian soldiers have been killed or injured. He says probably an equivalent number of Ukrainian soldiers.

Obviously, so much of this devastation is being taken out on the Ukrainian people themselves. You have seen the damage to the infrastructure there. You have heard the stories of so many of these fighters -- of the women and the children.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour was in a small hub in Kyiv. It's already delivered $1 million worth of aid just for women who are fighting on the front line.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): At a nondescript storefront in Kyiv covered with plastic against prying eyes, a major war effort is underway. Boxes of kits reveal a first of its kind -- fatigues designed for a mother-to-be.

AMANPOUR (on camera): So was there never, Andrii, anything for pregnant women before?


AMANPOUR (on camera): And how many pregnant women are fighting the Russians?

KOLESNYK: I'm not sure that a lot, but there are.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Andrii and Kasenya (PH) are married T.V. journalists in real life who now do this work. A female friend-turned- front-line sniper told them that she was pregnant and needed a new uniform. They're also sending female soldiers smaller boots and lighter Kevlar plates for their flat vests.

On this day, Roxolana (PH) comes in for a new uniform. She is in an intelligence unit near the front and joined up in March totally unprepared.

"It's so valuable to have these people who understand that we are tired of wearing clothes that are three sizes too big," she tells me. "We had no helmets. We had old flat jackets. We wore tracksuits and sneakers. Now we feel that we're humans."


The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense says there are more than 50,000 women under arms -- more than 5,000 of them on the front line. Amongst them, Andrii's sister.

KOLESNYK: She received men's uniform, men's underwear -- everything that is designed for men.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Females also need customized sanitary, medical, and humanitarian supplies. Kasenya and Andrii have sent out 3,000 of these care packages. They've produced 300 uniforms and plan for at least another 2,000 -- all winterized.

And then, there's this vital tool.

AMANPOUR (on camera): Oh my God. I have never --


AMANPOUR (on camera): -- seen that. A feminine urinary director for women --


AMANPOUR (on camera): -- of all ages. Basically, they pee in that, right, if there's no toilet?

KOLESNYK: Well, no, not in. They pee like men.

AMANPOUR (on camera): Look at that. Oh my God -- if only I'd known that in all the years I was in the field.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): And as a parting gift, they throw in this book on resilience and courage amid battle and in captivity, which happened to Alina Panina five months ago after the fall of Mariupol. She is part of a K9 border guard unit and like so many of the port city's defenders, she'd been hunkering down in the giant Azovstal steel plant. She was recently released as part of an all-female prisoner exchange with Russia.

We meet at this pizza bar run by vets.

AMANPOUR (on camera): Were you prepared for life as a POW?

AMANPOUR (voice-over): "No, I was not," she says, "and we discussed this a lot with the other women prisoners that life hasn't trained us for such an ordeal. While in captivity, though, I said I'll continue my service, and I have no plans to stop."

Back at their private procurement center, Andrii says he wishes he could join his sister, father, and brother-in-law, all at the front, but a physical disability means that he's not eligible.

KOLESNYK: For a man, it's kind of hard to understand that you can't go there and your sister is there. So, I'm trying to do my best here to help not only my family but the whole army.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): And the reviews from the battlefield are in. "It's just amazing," says Anastasia. "I'm happy as a child. The uniform is ideal, it looks great, and the fabric is very sturdy."

Meantime, Roxolana's new boots are made for marching all the way back to the front.


COLLINS: And CNN's Christiane Amanpour joins us now. Christiane, that story is amazing and I'm struck by how many of these women -- they had no experience doing this and now this is their new life on the front line.

AMANPOUR: Indeed, Kaitlan. There are tens of thousands who have joined up. We understand from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, 5,000 women on the front line. It's quite a high proportion compared with NATO in general. And in my conversation with the two -- well, the presidential couple, the president told me bravery has no gender.

And right now, we've seen movement in the Kherson region. The Russian Ministry of Defense says that they have left the city. There is a Ukrainian flag that has been raised. The Ukrainian military is not in the city, we don't believe, and the Ukrainian government is not confirming these Russian withdrawal public statements.

COLLINS: One thing I'm so struck by with this is that we haven't really heard Putin himself weigh in on these withdrawals. Why do you think that is?

AMANPOUR: Yes. Well, Kaitlan, look, I don't know but I think because he's always tried to project strength and success on the battlefield. Kherson is vital to the Russians.

It's in that very, very strategic area. It's a big gateway not just for their lines of supply but also to the Black Sea, which is crucial if they want to choke this country off and control that part. I mean, the Black Sea is the export -- the export opening -- the window for Ukraine, and so that's very important. Plus, it's obviously close to Russia.

But also, Putin is not going to the G20. That starts after the weekend in Indonesia. He won't be seeing President Biden or his friend, the Chinese president, Xi Jinping. Why is that? Maybe he doesn't want to have any awkward conversations about what appear to be significant battlefield losses.

COLLINS: Yes. There were big questions about whether or not President Biden should go if President Putin was going to be there. Obviously, he won't.

Christiane, thanks for that update, and we'll stick with you on what's happening with those withdrawals.

Meanwhile, there's been an exciting discovery beneath an Egyptian temple -- a tunnel that might lead to the lost tomb of Cleopatra?



LEMON: This is a fascinating story. It's a surprising discovery this morning in Egypt. An ancient tunnel found beneath the temple that could now lead to Cleopatra's tomb -- wow. A research team found the almost-mile-long tunnel 40 feet underground.

Scott McLean on the case for us from London. Good morning. What happened?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Don, yes. So this Dominican archaeologist named Kathleen Martinez has been searching for Cleopatra's tomb for some 15 years now based on a theory.

The theory is this -- stay with him -- is that Cleopatra would be buried at this temple site about 30 miles west of Alexandria because of its association with the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis and because Cleopatra was supposed to be the human incarnation of Isis when she ruled more than 2,000 years ago.


So not exactly a rock-solid theory but they've been digging it up now for more than a decade. They've found coins bearing her image. They found gold pieces, busts -- you name it.

They found the entrance to this tunnel using ground-penetrating radar, and when they got inside of it they realized that it is massive. It's more than three-quarters of a mile long. It's 40 feet underground. And it actually goes under -- if you can believe it -- a 10-lane highway toward the Mediterranean.

So the further that you go down this tunnel the more it becomes submerged with water to the point that at the end of it -- well, you actually need scuba gear to get there. The end of it, though, has collapsed and so there's no way to get beyond that.

The archaeologists now have the task of digging through 2,000 years of sediment to find out of the tomb is actually there, Don.

LEMON: I told you Scott's on the case. Scott, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

So, following the money. We are tracking how much the GOP spent on states where they woefully underperformed.

HARLOW: And a waiting game continues. Sorry to tell you but we still don't know the balance of power in Congress. How the key races are trending. We'll have that, next.