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Fareed Zakaria GPS

Fareed's Take: President Trump is turning his back on his populist agenda; Trump's racial slur and what it means for the immigration debate in the US; Trump says he has a good relationship with Kim Jong-un. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired January 14, 2018 - 10:00   ET


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.

Today on the show, President Trump casts a slur on a wide swath of the world's nations, calling them shitholes. What does this smear say about the man who uttered it? And what is the future of immigration in the Trump era?

Then, a possible thaw in the frigid relations with North Korea. President Trump says he would be willing to talk to Kim Jong-un on the phone. But the question is, is that really a good idea? And what will he say?

Also, 2017, I think most of the world was happy to say farewell to it, but it was actually a very good year. And not just for the 1 percent. "The New York Times'" Nick Kristof will offer a refreshing dose of good news.


NICK KRISTOF, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" COLUMNIST: The most important thing happening right now is not a Trump tweet, but it is this larger (INAUDIBLE 1:31) of progress that is transforming the world.


ZAKARIA: But, first, here's my take. The fire and fury over Michael Wolff's book has largely centered on the personalities and the power struggles within the White House. But behind all of that lies an important political development. One that explains the real rift between Donald Trump and his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

President Trump seems to have abandoned populism. Remember candidate Trump? His signature issue was immigration, on which he promised an unyielding hardline including a border wall and mass deportations.

His contract with the American voter was brimming with populist measures from tough actions against China to a trillion-dollar public works program. His economic plans focused on goodies for the middle class, from a 35 percent tax cut for middle class families to deductions for child and elderly care. He called for severe restrictions on lobbying and term limits for members of Congress. Consider Trump's final campaign ad.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a power global power structure that's responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth, and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.


ZAKARIA: Flash forward to President Trump today. There is no wall and his relations with China have been decidedly chummy. The main focus of his economic program has been to return vast sums of money to large corporations.

In the early months of the Trump administration, Bannon must have watched with incredulity as the candidate who campaigned as the fiery outsider against the Republican establishment essentially handed over the reins of his government to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.

McConnell is quoted in Wolff's book as saying this president will sign whatever is put in front of him.

Where did Trump's populism come from in the first place? To answer that question, the book to read is not Wolff's gossipy confection, but Joshua Green's highly intelligent "Devil's Bargain."

In it, Green points out that Trump originally had a mishmash of political views that leaned in no particular direction, but he began going on talk radio and addressing conservative audiences and realized that it was not economics, but social and cultural issues like immigration that got the crowds fired up.

Trump was initially indifferent to the idea of a wall, according to Green. But campaign aide Sam Nunberg is quoted as saying that when Trump tried out the idea out for the first time at the Iowa Freedom Summit in January 2015, the place just went nuts.

Unencumbered by any deep ideology of his own or any ethical qualms, Trump was able to adopt these issues far more quickly than his 16 competitors in the Republican primaries. He distinguished himself by taking on the most hardline positions and thus winning over the GOP base.

I don't agree with many of Steve Bannon's proposals, but he's surely right in recognizing the populist fury that runs through a large swath of the country.

One wonders what will happen to it as time passes and Trump's voters notice that they have ended up with something quite different than they had imagined.

During the presidential transition, Bannon told Wolff that the Trump era would be like America in the 1930s with a massive public works program that would get blue collar workers back into shipyards, mills and mines.

[10:05:11] Instead, we appear to have a return to the 1920s, an era of unrestrained capitalism, giddy market exuberance, a shrunken state and dramatically rising inequality. Is this what the laid off steel worker in Ohio voted for?

For more, go to and read my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.

US embassy officials have been summoned by their host nations. Many around the world have labelled the president's language racist, from a UN spokesman to US lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

This all came after President Trump in a meeting at the White House labelled African nations as shitholes, according to Sen. Dick Durbin who was there. That one word is having deep impact both domestically and abroad.

Joining me to discuss are the former foreign secretary of the United Kingdom, David Miliband. He now runs the International Rescue Committee. And Mark Krikorian joins us from DC. He's the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

David, what is your reaction and what is your reaction - what's your guess about how other countries - you were foreign secretary. How will they react to this?

DAVID MILIBAND, PRESIDENT AND CEO, INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE: Well, obviously, the language that the president used has taken US diplomacy into the gutter. And I think that that on its own would have been enough to lead the summons that you're talking about. Botswana is asking, is that us?

Now, I think there's a deeper point, though, because, obviously, there's a policy question too. This administration's policy in respect of refugees and migrants is leading a global race to the bottom.

You just have to look at the reductions in the number of refugees who are allowed to come to the US, the recent assault on the position of the temporary protective status of Salvadorians, 200,000 in the US being threatened with deportation to the world's homicide capital in El Salvador.

And I think it's the policy and the language coming together that give people the chills, frankly. It feels like not just a betrayal of American history, but a really thoroughgoing of sorts on America's alliances and role as a global leader because, of course, what has demarcated the US from Russia, China or other, now-labeled-competitors by the administration, is that on a moral plane, it set up a standard that others should emulate, and that seems to be being thrown away.

ZAKARIA: Mark, let me ask you. When you look at the language, it feels to me like, it's not just language. And I say this because - I don't know, I suppose I probably come from one of the nations that Trump is talking about. I don't know where India falls on the shithole spectrum, but it's brown and poor, which seemed to be the two main criteria.

And it feels to me like a kind of profound misunderstanding about America, about the American experiment that we think that those countries are screwed up because of the political and economic systems in those countries, not because of the inferior genetic quality of the people.

And so, if the people come here to America, to the American system, they will thrive and prosper. And, in fact, you look at people. I mean, Nigeria is a pretty screwed up country in many ways, though actually getting better. But Nigerian immigrants everywhere, but particularly in the United States, do fantastically. And you can go on and on and on.

So, isn't it just more than just the language? At some level, doesn't Donald Trump really not understand America and what American immigration has been all about?

MARK KRIKORIAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: Nigeria is actually a great example because why are Nigerian immigrants in the United States doing well compared to, say, Hondurans or Somalis? Because Nigerian immigrants generally have been selected based on education and skill. They are coming here as foreign graduate students, for instance, and they're staying.

So, it's the selection filter really is what you're seeing here. But the fact is, if you look at the outcomes of people, whether it's welfare use or income or educational attainment of people from, say, Somalia or Honduras, they're not great in the United States.

People who come with higher levels of human capital end up doing better. And so, this is why the idea of using a merit-based system, so that you don't decide, OK, you're from Somalia, we don't let you in, you instead judge people based on the level of education and skill and what have you.

That's what's likely to lead to much better outcomes in the long run for the United States.

[10:10:05] ZAKARIA: But, Mark, I mean, obviously, at some level, it's a truism to say people who are more educated are going to do better than others. The boat people who came from Indo-China were not selected on the basis of some elaborate merit system and have done very well. Indian-Americans, some of whom came on a kind of a merit system, many of whom came through the chain migration that Trump denies have done well.

The broader point, it seems to me is that seems human talent is sprinkled equally throughout the globe. The idea that you want to avoid people who come from countries that are screwed up or countries where everybody is brown or black, it seems a profound misunderstanding of what America is about. KRIKORIAN: Well, I mean, look, his comments - let's understand, first

of all. I don't think that politicians in other countries don't swear in private meetings as well. But the issue here is that we are - the case people are making for not sending, for instance, these Salvadorians or Haitians back after their ostensibly temporary status has expired, the case they are making is those countries are such bad places to live in that we cannot, must not return people.

Well, isn't that basically just what the president said, that those countries are not - are terrible places to live. He just said it in vulgar kind of Archie Bunkerish way, which is his idiom.

But the point of what he's saying really is what the advocates of increased refugee resettlement and of legalizing illegal immigrants - they're essentially saying the same thing the president said, only with a different vocabulary.

ZAKARIA: Is Trump saying the same thing, you're saying David Miliband?

MILIBAND: No. I think there are two aspects to this. One is the choice of language and the derogatory nature of it. The second is the link to the people themselves.

Obviously, you're, I think, right to say talent is sprinkled more generally. But there's another point too that I think is very important. People who have known persecution, oppression, poverty, the absence of freedom, when they get here, my goodness, do they value what America has to offer.

We've got a very difficult or a very big issue coming up. I'd be interested in what Mark would say about this. 200,000 El Salvadorians now documented for return. There are 6,500 Syrians on the same temporary protect status. They're in fear now that they're going to be sent back to Syria.

And I think it's very important to recognize that America's position as a global melting pot, the place that does have rules, that does require people to follow certain standards, that does have different aspects of merit or refugee-based element, and it should be updated, the system hasn't been updated since 1986, America sets a standard.

And the fact that this week, America has pulled out of the UN discussions on global migration tells you about what Richard Haas calls abdication. This is no longer the behavior, never mind the words, of a global leader. It's the words of a country that's fearful of the future. And that runs so contrary to everything that people expect of the United States.

ZAKARIA: All right. We're going to talk about all this. Stick with us. Next, we will also talk about the president's cancelled trip to London. He says he's not going because of something President Obama did. We will examine the veracity of that claim with the former foreign secretary of the United Kingdom when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [10:17:43] ZAKARIA: On Thursday evening, amidst the S storm, Donald Trump tweeted the following. "Reason I cancelled my trip to London is that I'm not a big fan of the Obama administration having sold perhaps the best-located and finest embassy in London for peanuts, only to build a new one in an off location for $1.2 billion. Bad deal!"

David Miliband was the foreign secretary of the United Kingdom. Also, joining us again is Mark Krikorian.

Do you think that was the best and most amazing embassy in London and do you think that Trump is right?

MILIBAND: Well, the new one is actually closer to Downing Street than the old one. The old one is an architectural monstrosity in Grosvenor Square. The new one is a very funky, new, modern design.

But, look, the truth is President Trump has made himself phenomenally unpopular in the UK, not just on the left of the political spectrum, and that can't be a good thing. I mean, his tweeting of - or retweeting of the fascist material in November really touched a deep chord in the UK and we can't end up in a situation where it's easier for President Putin to go to London than it is President Trump to go to London.

And so, I hope that he doesn't hide for too long behind this allegation that it is the Obama administration's decision. By the way, it was actually the Bush administration who took this decision to move the -

ZAKARIA: That's facts. No, you're letting facts get in the way of a good argument.

Mark, let me ask you. Back to immigration, one of the things I wonder is whether when - when Donald Trump makes these kind of comments, like the shithole comment, is it actually quite clever? He is trying to remind his base that he is, in fact, with them because, of course, the conversation before that had been that Donald Trump had gone soft on immigration, that he was now talking about a bill of love, a path for DREAMers, a comprehensive reform. As somebody who supports his original hardline or versions or parts of it, are you worried that Trump is going to go soft and end up making a deal that is, in fact, much more what the Democrats want on immigration than the Republicans?

KRIKORIAN: Well, that's always a danger with the president because you're really never quite sure. Even during the campaign, he would say things that sounded more like Jeb Bush than Donald Trump. I mean, that's a longstanding strain with the president's comments. But it never ends up actually turning out that way.

[10:20:11] And as to your point about whether his comment about these countries was a calculated move, I don't think so. I think president is just kind of like a man on the treat. His gut reaction is just the first thing that comes out of his mouth. And so, no.

I think what we saw in that meeting where he seems to be agreeing with the Democrats and telling them, sure, I'll sign whatever it is you send me, I think that was more calculated in the sense of trying to show him - agreeing with everybody and being agreeable, whereas his gut reaction is the - is relatively a more hawkish approach to immigration.

So, I don't think it was calculated and I don't think - I'm always worried that he might go soft, but it never ends up happening. So, I'm worried, but not panicking, let me put it that way.

MILIBAND: And I can reassure, Mark, there's no danger that America is going to be seen as soft on these issues. America is leading the race to the bottom.

And the point I would make is that that example that's being set is being used by leaders around the world who want to kick out refugees and it's undermining the position of people like King Abdullah of Jordan. He's hosting 650,000 refugees. He's being urged by some people in his own country to send them back to Syria and he's undermined by the stance that's taken by this administration here because the truth is that the vast majority of people who are coming from the troubled parts of the world are staying far away from the United States.

The top-ten hosting refugee countries in the world account for 2.5 percent of global income. United States accounts for 1 percent of the world's refugees and it's poor and lower middle-income countries like Bangladesh, Jordan, Ethiopia, Uganda who are hosting refugees, not the richer Western world.

KRIKORIAN: Fareed, that's an important point because bringing refugees to the United States, even a small number of them, is extraordinarily expensive and a misuse of our resources.

The United States, it costs 12 times as much to resettle a refugee from the Middle East as it does to care for them in the UNHCR facilities in the countries where they are taking their first asylum.

It is morally indefensible to resettle refugees because each person that we bring here represents 11 other people that that money is not helping. There's no moral justification for resettling large numbers of refugees to the west

ZAKARIA: David Miliband, you get the last word.

MILIBAND: Very small number of refugees are resettled in the West. And, remember, the fake news at the heart of Mark's comment is the idea that refugees are costing the American people.

The American government's own report shows that refugees are paying $6 billion a year more in taxes, $63 billion over ten years than they are receiving in benefits. These people who know the cost of persecution are contributors to the American dream.

ZAKARIA: And it's worth pointing out here, you have a wonderful book called "Refugee" -

MILIBAND: "Rescue."

ZAKARIA: "Rescue", sorry. And it's about the refugee crisis and about the fact that even though you sound like an Englishman from Central Casting -

MILIBAND: I am an Englishman from Central Casting.

ZAKARIA: You're the son of refugees.

MILIBAND: That's right.

ZAKARIA: Mark, David, pleasure to have you on.

Next on GPS, North Korea. The president claimed in an interview that he and Kim Jong-un have a very good relationship. I will talk to "The New Yorker's" Robin Wright about that relationship and about North Korea when we come back.


[15:57:50] ZAKARIA: In an interview Thursday with "The Wall Street Journal", President Trump said, I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un. He refused to answer, however, when asked whether he meant whether he had actually ever spoken to the North Korean leader.

Trump did say recently that he would be willing to speak to Kim. But is a Trump-Kim conversation a good idea and what would they say?

Joining me now is Robin Wright, a longtime foreign correspondent and a contributing writer for "The New Yorker".

Robin, you've actually been in North Korea. You've talked to North Korean officials. Let's first start with why have they agreed to these talks with the South Koreans? Is it that they really have a burning desire to be a part of the Olympics?

ROBIN WRIGHT, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, "THE NEW YORKER": I think they do want to be a part of the Olympics. But I think, more broadly, this is a power play. This is a ploy to prevent Washington to taking action against it. It buys them some time to noodle away on their nuclear program.

And the fact is, they've got the South Koreans to pick up the tab for not only the athletic group, but as well as the delegation to go with it and the cheerleaders that the North Koreans are so proud of.

So, I'm a real cynic about whether this is going to lead to anything at all. It's going to take, after the Olympics are over, one missile test, one tweet from the White House to get us back to where we were with North Koreans being further along in their program.

ZAKARIA: They have reacted to the Michael Wolff book. Explain how.

WRIGHT: Well, that's been fascinating to watch them talking about how this reflects the president's humiliation. They feel that - and again, remember, this is an isolated country, feel that their adversary, the greatest danger to the North Korean state is now being humiliated not just in United States, but on the world stage.

And so, it's been kind of fun to watch the North Koreans try to make capital off the Michael Wolff book. How far has the impact of "Fire and Fury" gone.

ZAKARIA: One of the things I worry about is even if things do move in a positive direction, one of the difficulties here is that the Trump administration will have to orchestrate some kind of negotiations or deal with a number of allies, the South Koreans, the Japanese, a number of quasi-adversaries, the Russians, the Chinese.

ZAKARIA: And that's a very elaborate game. And it feels like they haven't been so good at working with allies; they haven't been so good at these kind of complex negotiations.

WRIGHT: The Trump administration? I mean, the understatement of the year. And I think that his comments on immigration have underscored that he has really lost credibility. His reputation have been demolished on the world stage. His ability, in the -- because of his racist attitude, his bigoted worldview, to deal with some of the bigger issues facing the world, in a world that is globalizing, where racial diversity is greater than ever. His America-first agenda looks increasingly like white-first.

ZAKARIA: You -- you spent, what, six or seven years in Africa?

WRIGHT: Yeah. Yeah.

ZAKARIA: Of course the thrust of his comments seemed to have been directed towards Africa and Haiti. How do you think those countries are reacting?

WRIGHT: I think there is astonishment. I mean, this is a continent that he has stereotyped as one type of people. We're talking about 1.2 million people in over 50 countries.

ZAKARIA: One-point-two billion?

WRIGHT: Sorry, 1.2 billion, in 50 countries, that constitute more than a quarter of the world's countries. They have contributed to Nobel Peace Prizes in medicine and physics and chemistry, 10 in peace. This is a continent that has contributed that it's on the front burner in terms of developing economies, fast-moving, fast-growing economies. This is -- and this is also a place, with the demise of the Islamic state in Syria and Iraq, you're finding some of our greatest jihadi extremist challenges in Libya, the Sinai Peninsula and Somalia.

And so this is part of his -- you know, Africa has to be part -- a big part of his national security agenda. If Africa is unstable, so is America.

ZAKARIA: Let me also ask you about Iran, since I have the chance to have you here. Again, you've spent a lot of time in Iran, I think more than any foreign correspondent I can think of. What do you think is going on in there with those protests?

Do you think this is a kind of existential moment for the regime, or they'll weather it?

WRIGHT: Well, they've contained the protests for now. They have not contained the issue. And this will continue to bubble, whether it's in sporadic protests or in demands for change. The question is, of course, can the regime respond to the kind of structural needs?

President Rouhani was trying to engage in the kind of reforms that the IMF or the World Bank would have welcomed but at a cost to the people. And these kinds of subsidies that have been -- that he's proposing cutting, leading -- contributing to the price hikes, date back to the Iran-Iraq war. No parliament has been willing to pull back on them.

So there -- this is a longstanding issue that has to be dealt with for the Islamic Republic to survive. You also...

ZAKARIA: And it is interesting. He is trying to do these reforms, long-needed. He's trying to make the budget more transparent by opening it up. And of course it revealed how much money was going to Syria and how much money was going to Ayatollahs. He's the guy who pushed for faster Internet. I mean, is he going to be the Gorbachev of Iran?

WRIGHT: That's been the question in Iran since the day he was elected in 2003, because to reform -- revolution always has to adapt or it collapses. And the key is often, when you look at Communism in the Soviet Union or Apartheid in South Africa, the key is often economics. Can an ideology sustain itself in practice?

And neither Communism no Apartheid could do it. And the question is, can an Islamic theocracy sustain itself, promise to give to the downtrodden and the oppressed and still be a modern economy?

Despite all its oil wealth, Iran has not been able to deliver what people expect. And of course, with the number of cell phone users, 48 million now out of 80 million, with the majority of the population born since the revolution, the majority of voters born since the revolution, and unemployment among the young now officially 29 percent and probably unofficially somewhat closer to 40, there are hotbeds of discontent across the country.

But you haven't seen the kind of unity between the poor, the working class, the young and the reformers, the liberals and the elites and the educated that you did in the run-up to the revolution. We're not in the midst of a counter-revolution yet.

ZAKARIA: Do you think, when you've traveled there recently, that it still is true, which has been my experience, that Iranians are surprisingly pro-American, or interested and excited to meet Americans and speak of it with no hostility?

WRIGHT: I think that was true up until the Trump administration. And I think the kind of language that has been used, again, a little bit like the language he used on immigration, has led to a lot of disillusionment. And the fact that some of the basics, whether it's sanctions waivered or the Boeing deal for American aircraft, that a lot of things have been put in doubt. And those are the things that the Iranian people expected to come out of it. They haven't felt the benefits. And they look at the Trump administration as having undermined the Obama administration's progress in, kind of, diffusing tensions that date back four decades.

ZAKARIA: Robin Wright, always a pleasure.

WRIGHT: Thank you.

Next on "GPS," much of America now has some variety of legal marijuana, either for recreational or medicinal uses. But the Trump administration has quietly altered guidance to federal prosecutors about how to deal with pot. Is that a smart policy? When we come back.


ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment. At the end of last week, as we all obsessed over Michael Wolff's book, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in a one-page memo, quietly turned back years of progress on marijuana reform.

On January 4th, Session reversed an Obama-era decision that instructed federal prosecutors to relax enforcement of marijuana laws in states that had legalized and regulated it. Are we now bringing back a part of the war on drugs that had been dead and buried?

Let's remember that this hugely expensive, decades-long war was deemed a failure by both sides of the aisle, crowding the country's prisons with low-level offenders. About 43 percent of the nearly 1.5 million drug arrests in 2015 alone were related to marijuana.

And we're not just talking about trafficking. There were more than 8 million marijuana arrests from 2001 to 2010, according to the ACLU, 88 percent of them for possession.

The United States has one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world, with more than 20 percent of the world's prisoners, despite having less than 5 percent of its population.

Sessions' reefer mania has already run up against the priorities of many conservatives, like the billionaire Koch brothers, for a previous drug policy decision regarding sentencing. And legalization of marijuana is now popular even with Republicans. Sixty-four percent of Americans support legalization, according to a recent Gallup poll, the highest in almost 50 years of polling. And a majority of Republicans are in favor, at 51 percent.

Twenty-nine states plus the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing recreational or medicinal use of the drug. In a Quinnipiac University poll, three-quarters of respondents said they would oppose the federal government enforcing federal marijuana laws in states that had legalized it.

And then there is the economics. With this move, the administration is targeting a swiftly growing American industry, with businesses that could potentially be vulnerable to prosecution in the future. The legal cannabis industry employs between 165,000 to and 230,000 people, according to the Marijuana Business Daily, which The Washington Post notes is two to three times as many coal mining.

In states with the most liberal laws, taxes on cannabis are a huge boon. Colorado raked in over $247 million in 2017 in marijuana-related tax revenue. Millions of dollars of these revenues have been put back into public schools.

And what happens if these legal growers and distributors shut down? Illegal activity may take their place. As California Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher says, Sessions just delivered an extravagant holiday gift to the drug cartels. I guess Sessions and Trump might prefer to call it a Christmas gift.

Up next, there hasn't been a whole lot of good news on this show nor seemingly in the world at large over the past year, but when we come back, Nick Kristof will give us the other side of doom and gloom, the astonishing quantity of good news, when we come back.


ZAKARIA: Many Americans and many in the rest of the world were quite pleased to see 2017 end. When The Washington Post asked Americans for a word to describe last year, the top 10 results were "chaotic, crazy, challenging, great, tumultuous, horrendous, disappointing, interesting, disastrous" and "good."

So that's seven negative, one neutral and just two positive words.

But my next guest is here to tell us that 2017 was the best year in human history. Nick Kristof is, of course, a columnist for the New York Times.

So, to all those skeptics out there, first explain why you say 2017 was the best year in human history?

KRISTOF: Well, they're right about the chaos. They're right about all the problems. But internalism -- you know, we -- we tend to focus on the problems, but we tend to ignore the backdrop. And the great backdrop, which continued strongly in 2017, is enormous progress against the age-old enemies of humanity, illiteracy, poverty, disease. And so every day last year, for example, another 217,000 people emerged from extreme poverty every day. Another 300,000 people got clean water for the first time. Another 325,000 got electricity for the first time.

And so my argument is that the most important thing happening right now is not a Trump tweet but it is this larger tapestry of progress that is transforming the world.

ZAKARIA: When you -- when you look at markers like war, civil war, even there you see a remarkable uptick over the last -- if you look over the longer trajectory, over decades?

KRISTOF: A down-tick, yeah.

ZAKARIA: A down-tick -- sorry -- an uptick of peace.


KRISTOF: Uptick of peace. Inter-state wars have pretty much just disappeared. And you do still see some civil wars. There's obviously conflict. But, you know, the number of people dying in any given year from warfare is way down, on a per capita basis and on an absolute basis, from what it was.

ZAKARIA: So when people hear this and say, "Well, wait, what about Syria? I heard all about the, you know, horrors of Syria"?

KRISTOF: And it's true. It was every bit as horrific as people say. But, you know, they -- I think people forget about the Angolan war, the Mozambique war, obviously Cambodia, the genocide there, Rwanda, Burundi and, you know -- plus all of Indochina.

And so I think that intellectuals are often reluctant to acknowledge this progress, because then it feels like one is somehow being disloyal to all the needs out there. But I think that there is a risk that, if we don't acknowledge this backdrop of progress, then we simply empower the folks who want to "make America great again" and long nostalgically for some kind of a past golden era that never really existed.

ZAKARIA: So you're saying, if you operate out of, sort of, a backdrop of pessimism and fear, you're likely to come to the wrong conclusions, rather than recognizing that there's a lot to be optimistic about, though there are challenges ahead?

KRISTOF: That's exactly right. And I think one problem with both journalism and the humanitarian community is that they focus so much on the problems, which remain and are true, that they leave -- leave people feeling, kind of, hopeless and disempowered and it's too bad about global poverty, but nothing can be done.

And, you know, 90 percent of people in polls say that global poverty is either worsening or is staying the same, when the extraordinary trend in our lifetimes has been that, when I was a kid, a majority of human beings had always been poor and illiterate throughout human history and now fewer than 10 percent are, in terms of absolute poverty.

ZAKARIA: Well, this is -- this is terrific, Nick. Because what you're describing is, sort of, the trend, the signal that doesn't make news any given day but is actually the bigger tidal wave in the long run.

KRISTOF: That's exactly right. I think that it's a fair criticism of journalism, that we cover what happens on a particular day, but we don't cover what happens on every day. So we, kind of, missed the Industrial Revolution story, and I'm afraid we're missing this progress story, too.

ZAKARIA: Well, not on this show. (LAUGHTER)

Thank you, sir.

Next on "GPS," China delivers a death blow to America. That's what happens metaphorically at the end of China's top grossing movie ever. And now China has submitted the film for the Oscars. I will tell you all about it when we come back.


ZAKARIA: Well, the American dream isn't what it once was, but social mobility is rising in other nations. It brings me to my question. In which one of the following countries have the poorest 20 percent of the population seen their wealth grow twice as fast as the richest 20 percent from 2013 to 2016: France, Canada, Switzerland or Japan? Stay tuned and we'll tell the correct answer.

My book of the week is Joshua Green's "Devil's Bargain." This is the book I found truly enlightening on the relationship of Donald Trump and his once chief strategist Steve Bannon, but also on the much bigger issue of the rise of populism in America today.

And now for the last look. The awards season picked up with Sunday's Golden Globes, and nominations will soon be announced for the Oscars, but you may have missed one of 2017's biggest blockbusters.

"Wolf Warrior 2" tells the story of a former special forces soldier fighting in a fictional African nation amidst a civil war and the outbreak of an epidemic. It is China's highest grossing film ever. Leng Feng, the Rambo-esque hero, rescues civilians from a whole host of bad guys, including an American mercenary named Big Daddy. Evan Osnos's terrific recent New Yorker article titled "Making China Great Again" pointed out that the movie reflects the reality of China's increasing presence on the world stage.

In recent years China has been beefing up its military assets, and the movie reflects that. It's filled with high-tech weaponry and ultra- precise missiles. Even Big Daddy is impressed.


(UNKNOWN): I guess the Chinese military ain't as lame as I thought.

ZAKARIA (voice over): The movie also suggests that China is a leader in a peaceful global order. The U.N. has to weigh in before the Chinese will attack the bad guys.


ZAKARIA: The rescue copters are emblazoned with the U.N. insignia, and even the rebels acknowledge that China has protected status as a U.N. Security Council member.

(UNKNOWN): And we cannot kill the Chinese. China is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and I need them on my side. ZAKARIA: And what about that other superpower on this U.N. Security


Well, in the midst of an evacuation, an American doctor calls the embassy to check on the status of her rescuers, only to hear this message.

(UNKNOWN): Welcome to the American consulate. Unfortunately, we are closed.

ZAKARIA: In an America-first world, China is filling the vacuum in real life and on the big screen.


ZAKARIA (on camera): The answer to the "GPS" challenge question is B. According to a Quartz analysis of Canadian government data, Canada has seen remarkable levels of upward social mobility in its poor citizens lately. Between 2013 and 2016 the poorest fifth of Canadian households have seen their wealth grow by 24 percent, twice as fast as the wealthiest fifth over that period. In the U.S., meanwhile, the trend is essentially reversed. The poorest 20 percent have been their net worth grow by 16 percent on average over this same period, while, for the richest 20 percent, the number was much higher, 27.5 percent, on average. It looks like the American dream might well have moved up north.

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