Return to Transcripts main page

Fareed Zakaria GPS

A New Cold War Between U.S. And China?; How The World Views America's Handling Of COVID-19; Authoritarianism In America?; Developing Countries Face Dire Challenge Of COVID-19; Trump Says He Will Ban TikTok. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired August 02, 2020 - 10:00   ET



FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you live from New York.


ZAKARIA: Today on the show, a new cold war. U.S.-China relations are at their lowest point in many decades. What will it take to get back to some kind of normal?

And an ugly week in America as it passes 150,000 COVID deaths and records its worst economic quarter ever. I'll talk to an all-star panel about it all.

Then casting doubt on mail-in ballots. (INAUDIBLE) on accepting election results.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have to say -- I'm not just going to say yes. I'm not going to say and I didn't last time either.

ZAKARIA: And now suggesting postponing the elections entirely. Donald Trump is setting up a dangerous November. Could America really become authoritarian? I'll ask Anne Applebaum, who has written a timely new book.

Also, the U.S., in some measures the world's richest country, has struggled with COVID. So how are the world's poorest faring? For the most part, not well. I will talk to the former British Foreign secretary David Miliband.


ZAKARIA: But first here's my take. We're used to thinking about the American presidency as a position of moral leadership, a bully pulpit in Theodore Roosevelt's words, and many occupants of the White House have used that function well. But the modern American president also has a core managerial aspect as the CEO of the federal government. And this dimension of power is crucial in a national crisis. Donald Trump has never understood or mastered that role, and that is

the central reason why America's COVID-19 outbreak has turned into a catastrophe.

The American presidency has become a symbol of super power status with pictures of the White House recognizable around the globe, but the Constitution actually makes the office weak by design, giving it among the most limited set of powers of any head of government in the world.

Preeminent scholar Richard Neustadt noted that to get anything done, the president has to use whatever influence he does possess on Congress, agencies, the media, state governments, private interests, foreign allies and public opinion abroad as well as at home. Compared to all the oppositions, even a strong president is weak.

Some argue that the accumulation of presidential power through executive actions has been vast and dangerous. Others note that this expansion is mostly in the realm of international affairs, arguing that there are really two presidencies, a strong one in foreign policy and a weak one in domestic matters.

In any case, when compared with most parliamentary systems where the head of government essentially controls both the executive and legislative branch, the American presidency is, indeed, weak. That's why a national crisis has always required a heroic exertion of presidential power.

It was Herbert Hoover's failure to use his office to tackle the Great Depression that led to Franklin Roosevelt's victory, and it was FDR's effective and creative use of the White House that rescued the economy. Ever since then, presidents have understood that when facing a real challenge, they must use all their talents and efforts to mobilize the government's resources.

Now the COVID-19 pandemic is just such a challenge, one of the biggest the country has ever faced, but tackling it requires that the president take charge, coordinating and overseeing the actions of dozens of federal agencies, making sure they're working in concert. It means close cooperation with the states, allowing for some variation and experimentation but still ensuring that core national standards and objectives are met.

And it requires a clear, consistent message that educates and leads the public. In other words, it's hard work. A comparison with Germany's instructive, that country also has a weak central government and its chancellor has limited powers, partly because of the Nazi past and partly because of a long tradition of decentralization.


As a result, when COVID-19 struck, Berlin, too, faced the problem of multiple sources of authority but the central government managed to coordinate its public health agency successfully, steering the national response while exercising a light touch that allowed for some local experimentation, and the quick rollout of testing by private companies and labs. The Chancellor Angela Merkel acted as the national guide, presenting

the public with clear scientific criteria for government decisions, at one point explaining the concept of R-naught, the rate of spread, and why it was crucial to keep that number under one. The result is that Germany today has 110 deaths per million people compared with America's 470 deaths per million people.

Trump actually handles the bully pulpit aspect of the White House effectively. I don't like the ideas he puts forward often, but he does so in an innovative way, using all of the tools of social media to amplify his voice and get out his message. Unfortunately, during the pandemic, he used this platform to promote unproven treatments, discourage mask wearing, and stoke anti-lockdown sentiment.

Worse still, Trump seems to think that public relations is the essence of his job. As COVID-19 hit, he made bold announcements about convenient testing at Walmart and CVS, tests with near instant results, and massive new supplies. For the most part, he failed to deliver.

This is how Trump has handled most of his presidency, from the travel bans to repealing Obamacare. Half-baked policies are summarily announced, often on Twitter. They then amended by federal agencies or struck down by courts or reversed by Congress. The initial chaos dies down but little actually gets accomplished.

The point of policy for Trump is political theater, not execution. Even when he uses presidential powers, like sending federal troops ostensibly to restore law and order in cities, it's really to make a polemical statement, not to solve an actual problem.

Trump has turned the American presidency into a reality television show. But the COVID-19 pandemic has painfully demonstrated that you cannot solve a national crisis with ratings and tweets.

Go to for a link to my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.

Let's get right to this week's terrific panelists. So much to talk about. Robert Zoellick was the president of the World Bank and he served as deputy secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration. He's also the author of a new book, "American in the World: A History of U.S. Diplomacy and Foreign Policy."

Anne-Marie Slaughter was the director of policy planning at the State Department in the Obama administration. And Kishore Mahbubani was a top diplomat for Singapore for more than 30 years before becoming an academic.

Bob, let me start with you. You've written this terrific book that really is kind of an analytic survey through American history, starting with Ben Franklin in Paris and ending with the present. And a theme that I see consistently in it is that Americans have found a way to be practical and find practical solutions to problems.

So, when you look at that history and you look at where we are with China today, it seems as though on both sides of the aisle there is this view now that American diplomacy toward China failed and we need something very different and much tougher in response. So, how do you react to that?

ROBERT ZOELLICK, FORMER PRESIDENT, WORLD BANK: Well, first, thanks for having me on the show. And in a way, your opening is a nice segue into what I was trying to cover in the book, which is the challenge of actually pragmatically trying to address and solve problems and using all the different instruments of U.S. power from the presidency on down.

Now, as for China in particular, I'm afraid the relationship appears to be in freefall. And I don't quite know where the bottom is going to be. This is a responsibility of both sides, from China's and some of the changes under Xi and certainly under the Trump administration. And I think the starting point is where you ended, which is that for any administration, it's important to have a sense of what do you want to accomplish?

We know what you can complain about, but what results and how do you want to try to achieve them? In the past, another theme in the book, is over the past 70 years the U.S. reliance on the alliance system and the economic network that are created to be more successful and bring other powers to bear.

That's not what this administration has done. Its approach to China in the first three years is really a focus on trying to do bilateral trade package which would weaken its conclusions and frankly is only being half executed.


And then over the past few months there's been a pivot to what looks like a very political focus to try to blame China for everything. So, whoever is running the White House in the future, the relationship with China, I think, is going to have to try to go back to understand how we try to have a new competition as well as find areas of cooperation on areas like the environment and pandemic issues.

And the cold war theme, which you mentioned, will take us in the wrong direction.

ZAKARIA: Anne-Marie Slaughter, how would you respond to what Bob was describing, and keep in mind this, on both sides of the aisle in Washington, I noticed we're back in a kind of cold war dynamic by which I mean it is always safer to be a hawk than a dove. It is always safer to claim you're being tough, you're standing up for America, and it's happening on both sides, also the U.S. and China. You know, the hawks are, in a sense, reinforcing each other.

ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, CEO, NEW AMERICA: Fareed, I think you're exactly right. And this return to a new -- to a cold war, a new cold war, is easy and bipartisan and wrong. To begin with, you know, Bob Zoellick himself coined the responsible stakeholder idea where we engage China to make it a responsible stakeholder in the world. And it's certainly true that that approach had its limits and we needed to get tougher with China. But it wasn't a total failure.

China -- you know, China's rise was good for the global economy. It raised hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in China and elsewhere. And China is a player in the global system. It is also true that China is pushing its military power, its technological power in ways that we need to stand up to. But it shouldn't be a new cold war. That's looking backwards. Furthermore, it's letting China set the agenda.

China pushes and we try to block, and now we're pushing it at every turn to almost try to deliberately create a crisis. But the point is, China has a vision. It has a vision of what China is going to be, technologically advanced by 2025 and by 2049, 100 years after the revolution, it wants to be a high-income country. It has a vision for itself in the world.

We need to be competing with China by our own vision of where we want to be in the world. What we want to see with technology, what kind of technology, data governance, human rights, an economic system, an open society. We need to be competing positively, not returning to what is such an easy thing for those of us who grew up in the cold war with Russia to say, let's do it all again.

ZAKARIA: Kishore Mahbubani, we don't have a lot of time in this segment, but I want you to tell me briefly, what could we do now? We're in the middle of a pandemic. You have these two countries now at odds. Is there a creative diplomatic path to return to some degree of normalcy?

KISHORE MAHBUBANI, FORMER SENIOR SINGAPOREAN DIPLOMAT: Well, I would make quickly two points. The first one I agree with the points that Bob and Anne-Marie have made, and I also agree the term cold war is actually very dangerous because it creates a deep sense of complacency on the part of the United States that oh, we defeated the Soviet Union, we can also defeat China.

By this time you're taking on a 4,000-year-old civilization that is now enjoying its most energetic streak ever in 4,000 years. So take the long view. The second point is that right now if the four of us, Bob, Anne-Marie, you and I were caught on a boat that was on fire, the stupidest thing the four of us could do is argue about who started the fire.

We should all come together and put out the fire. And so the simplest thing the United States and China could do is to agree to put a complete pause on the geopolitical contest, focus on putting out the fire, which is COVID-19, declare an end to the trade war, and say, let's stop all that. And guess what, I bet you the markets will bounce as soon as we do that.

ZAKARIA: Fascinating. Now, when we come back, I'm going to ask all of you, has America's bungling of the COVID response hurt American power? How much does it matter?



ZAKARIA: And we are back on GPS with Robert Zoellick, Anne-Marie Slaughter, and Kishore Mahbubani.

Kishore, let me ask you. What does it look like from East Asia? You see the richest country in the world, the country that 50 years ago put a man on the moon, and, you know, it is clearly floundering with this crisis and the East Asian countries have handled it extraordinarily well.

I mean, you look at a country like Taiwan and it has, you know, under a dozen deaths. You look at Singapore, where you come from, and the number of deaths is, you know, miniscule compared to the United States per capita. What are people saying about America?

MAHBUBANI: Well, I mean, I hope you don't mind if I'm a bit frank in my reply. The East Asian who, as you know, admire the United States a great deal, and it's important to emphasize that the East Asian elites were all trained in American universities.


The best alumni of American universities on East Asia, they always assume when there's a problem, America will solve it first, America would do it best. And that was an assumption we all had. And what's happened on COVID-19 is quite shocking because the number of deaths per million in East Asia, as you suggested, are all below 10. And Europe and United States is in the hundreds and the gap is phenomenal.

And the key point here is that, Fareed, is that in East Asia, there's always been a respectful government. And they believe that good governance, good government, is essential. And by the way, that was also suggested both in your opening remarks and in Bob's opening remarks about how U.S. presidents are very ingenious at using their office to get things done. So this time around it's almost as though whatever the U.S. could do wrong, it has done wrong.

And I can assure you that the rest of the world wants to see the U.S. do well and wants the U.S. to succeed, but maybe the first thing to do is acknowledge that good government -- the term government is good and not bad.

ZAKARIA: Bob Zoellick, let me ask you, as a longtime Republican and a man with a reputation for extreme efficiency in government, do you think that the anti-government rhetoric of Reagan and Thatcher created -- and the defunding of many federal agencies over the years, has it caused a circumstance where it is much more difficult to coordinate a robust public health response that requires government in the United States?

ZOELLICK: Well, under both the Bush 43 administration and the Obama administration, they both focused on pandemic issues, and so I don't believe that the constant debate to and fro about the nature of government in the United States prevents an effective response. I think the problem is where you pointed your finger at the top. But what I want to add on this is the White House is not all of the

United States. So probably most people haven't focused as much, but the Federal Reserve, which is an important U.S. institution, did a fantastic job not only for the U.S. economy but the global economy. I bet as we go forward that the private sector working with government on vaccines will be a critical part of sort of getting out of this hole.

So the next real question from an international side will be, how will the U.S. take those advantages, our financial and economic power and frankly what I think will probably be the critical medical and health solution, and deal with it internationally?

So I'll give you an example from another Republican administration. President Bush 43 had an HIV-AIDS initiative that probably did more for African health that anything in the history of U.S. relations with Africa. That will be the challenge for the next U.S. administration.

ZAKARIA: Kishore -- I should just tell viewers we have lost Anne-Marie Slaughter. The minute she gets back, we will bring her back.

But, Kishore, let me ask you, when you look at this challenge, you know, getting the world together, do you think China bears some responsibility as well? I mean, under President Xi, it has become more nationalistic, it has become more repressive. You see the way it is now implementing the national security law in Hong Kong to stifle political dissent. It's gotten tougher on neighbors like India. Doesn't China also need to do some hard introspection?

MAHBUBANI: You're absolutely right. China has become more assertive and China has become a much more difficult country to deal with. But that's a natural event as a result China become much bigger -- becoming much bigger. Just remember in 1918 in PPP terms, China's GNP was 10 percent of the United States. 10 percent.

And no, in PPP terms it's become bigger. So if I was -- while I'm talking to you, there's a little cat in my room. And after a few minutes the cat has become a tiger. The tiger is a different animal that we've got to deal with.

Now, the question is this, can we wish China away? Can we ask China to immediately conform to our needs? And I say, it cannot happen. We have to deal realistically with the China that we have. And I believe we can cooperate with China and ask China to behave exactly as Bob said, as a responsible stakeholder, and make it clear what we expect of a responsible stakeholder. And I believe we can get that done with China.

ZAKARIA: Anne-Marie Slaughter, we're glad to have you back. And let me ask you, give you the final minute, what is your reaction to the fact that American citizens now are banned from Europe? Did you ever think you would see this?

SLAUGHTER: This has to be the nadir of America in the world in my lifetime.


We have been disliked for many things. We've had many controversies. But right now the world is looking at our spectacular incompetence and disfunction. I never thought I'd see anything like it.

ZAKARIA: Anne-Marie Slaughter, Kishore Mahbubani, Bob Zoellick, pleasure to have you all on.

ZOELLICK: Thanks for having on.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, as the president ponders postponing the 2020 presidential election, some Americans are worried about creeping authoritarianism. Anne Applebaum has written a new book about why that kind of government has a seductive lure. Very timely, important conversation when we come back.



ZAKARIA: When Donald Trump and his allies withheld aid from a foreign country in hopes of getting dirt on a political rival, many people cried foul. This, they said, doesn't happen in a democracy. When federal agents cleared the park next to the White House for Trump photo up, people cried foul, this they said, doesn't happen in a democracy.

When President Trump this week raised the idea of postponing the elections, people cried foul saying again, this doesn't happen in a democracy. So what is the state of American democracy and is it sliding towards something more sinister?

Anne Applebaum has a brilliantly timed new book, "Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism." Welcome Anne. I want to ask you about the central question to start, because I think that has been a tendency in the United States, certainly, I shared to say, yes, the Trump is a circus. He's vulgar. He clearly doesn't believe in some of these democratic norms. But the country is strong, the institutions are strong, this will be a blip. This will be temporary.

But you have lived in Poland, right next to Hungary, and you've watched a different trajectory. So is the book meant to sort of warn us against complacency?

ANNE APPLEBAUM, AUTHOR, "TWILIGHT OF DEMOCRACY": Yes, that is one of the points of the book. I feel that over the last 30, 40, 50 years even we've all become convinced that democracy is something automatic, we don't have to worry about it. It's just how our systems work. And once you have democracy, you've had free elections a few times, you can't backslide.

Actually, the Founders of the United States, the people who wrote our Constitution, were very aware that democracies had failed in the past. They were reading about ancient democracy, the Roman Republic that failed and they were thinking about how to prevent failure. [10:35:00]

And we can see all around us in the world today that there are democracies, some which have had many, multiple changes of power, which are running into trouble and which are experiencing real crises. And the crises are not that different from the ones happening the United States. So yes, I mean, if the book has a single message, it's that don't be complacent democracies can fail. In fact, almost all the ones who hitherto have.

ZAKARIA: So when you look at the world you're living in, in Poland and Hungary, these are places that we all celebrated the birth of democracy in Eastern Europe in 1989, and seemed very, really consolidated democracies. They seem to have embraced the values of democracy and liberalism very, very powerfully. In a nutshell what happened?

APPLEBAUM: So in both countries what happened was that authoritarian minded parties came to power. And once they did come to power, they began destroying and undermining the institutions that keep democracy in balance.

I mean, if you think about it, democracy asks a lot of politicians and asked them once they win an election, to keep the system going so that their political enemies can beat them again in four years' time. It also asked people who are out of power to accept that their political enemies have the right to rule for four years.

And what we've seen happening, not just in Eastern Europe but elsewhere in the world, is parties coming to power and changing the rules and altering the way the system works. Look, there are elements of the Republican Party now in the United States who are afraid that because their party is becoming a minority party, because it doesn't - it hasn't won - it has more trouble winning national elections, winning the popular vote than it used to.

They are worried about will they be able to continue and they're looking at changing the rules. Do we need to undermine people's trust in the media by calling it fake news?

Do we need to do gerrymander electoral districts, so that it's harder for Democrats to win? Do we need to do voter suppression? Do we need to warn people in advance or tease people with the idea that the election might not be legitimate in order to scare them off voting?

I mean, all of these are tactics that Americans may find new, but actually they've been tried and used elsewhere all over the world.

ZAKARIA: And it seems to me that what people - and this is quite widespread, and it's not just on the right, have lost faith in is the idea of a fair process. That if you just - democracy is all about a fair process. That you have freedom of speech, and then you hope the best ideas win. You have independent courts, and you trust that the courts over time, will rule in the right way. And people are saying no, we don't want just a fair process, we want to figure out what the outcome is. We just want to get directly there. APPLEBAUM: Yes. I mean - and you're absolutely right to say that there's nothing special about the writer that makes it lean towards authoritarianism. There have been Left Wing - plenty of Left Wing authoritarian states in the past.

But you've also pointed to something really important, which is the - we live in an age when you can press a button on your computer and someone will deliver you a book or a pair of shoes the next day. But democracy seems to take a long time.

And people feel, look, enough, we need some more direct way. We need to solve this problem faster. And the danger of that impulse which is, understandable is that people then try to skip the stages of democracy and we end up with something much worse.

ZAKARIA: How bad can it get? At this point would you say that Hungary and Poland have effectively ceased to be real liberal democracies?

APPLEBAUM: So I would say Hungary has ceased to be a liberal democracy. Yes, I don't think an opposition party can win a national election now in Hungary. Something like 90 or 95 percent of the media is now controlled either directly or indirectly by the government.

Poland is a different story. There's still a very raucous opposition. Although, it's getting harder for it to compete, because the rules of the of the playing field are no longer even, and there's now some talk of changing the electoral law to the advantage of the ruling party and also changing the media law to make independent media more difficult.

But I stress again, these are two examples, but these kinds of ideas and these kinds of political parties have enormous amount of appeal in other places as well. You can see them in Italy, you can see them in France. You can - we can talk about the Philippines, we can talk about Turkey, we could talk about India, in a certain sense. I mean, you know that story better than me.

But the lack of faith in the system, as you say, in the rules that the rules will create an even playing field and get to a good solution is quite widespread and in a lot of our democracies.

ZAKARIA: But this is a very important book. And as always, with everything you write and terrifically written. Thank you so much for coming on.

APPLEBAUM: Thanks very, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, I've warned before that when COVID hit the developing word hard, it could reverse decades of progress there. David Miliband is the President of the International Rescue Committee which helps refugees in 40 countries. He will give us an update and much of the news, alas, is not good.


[10:40:00] ZAKARIA: If rich countries like the United States and United Kingdom have struggled so badly with the pandemic, what could we expect from countries with much more limited resources? That part of the world or much of it is David Miliband's brief these days. He is the President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, which helps people in humanitarian crises. He is a former Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom.

Welcome, David. Let me ask you to give us an update, because when it - when COVID first hit, there was a bit of - almost a paradox, which is that it was it was hitting the richest parts of the world very forcefully. But in the poorer parts of the world it seemed to be what was being called a very slow burn. What does it look like now?

DAVID MILIBAND, PRESIDENT & CEO, INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE: Well, I think that we're at a pivot point now. The disease is going from a rich country's disease, which has affected poorer people in those countries more to a genuinely global pandemic. We've seen the exponential growth in Latin America, Mexico, Colombia.

But now across Africa, we've seen over the last two months only, a 500 percent increase in the number of recorded cases. And certainly in the health centers that International Rescue Committee runs in conflict zones and in refugee hosting states around the world, we're seeing an uptick.

I think the critical point to understand is there so little testing that too often, we're flying blind in really tackling the disease. And that means that you're having very high what are called case positivity, test positivity ratios. 30-40 percent of people getting tested having the disease compared to about 8 percent across the United States.

And you're also having health systems that are already weak, seeing people scared to go and have malaria treatment or other treatments. And so there's a compound of the COVID effect with a further health effect even before you get to the economic emergency that's being created. So we think there's still time and necessity for prevention, but we also have to step up on the curative front.

ZAKARIA: Tell us about some of the worst places? What are you worried about when you're looking at this, both in terms of just the sheer humanitarian nightmare and also maybe the political fallout?

MILIBAND: Yes, let me put into two categories. First, the war zones of the world are our greatest concern. Yemen, Syria, Northeast Nigeria, these are conflict zones with a population that suffer in all sorts of ways and very weak state infrastructure, much of which has been bombed and destroyed during conflict. A parts of Afghanistan fit into that category too. And those are certainly very high on our emergency list.

However, I'd also add fragile states that are hosting large numbers of refugees, and where the population is under strain in all sorts of ways. I'd put countries like Pakistan into that category.

I'd also want to highlight that countries like Bangladesh, which is hosting a million refugees from Myanmar, and so far seems to have done a job in containing what you would think is a disease ready to run rampant. Million people in Cox's Bazar, living there in a density of about 50,000-60,000 people per square kilometer compared to about 10,000 in New York.

The country is really mobilized. I'm incredibly impressed with the way they've - we've worked with the Bangladeshi government to mobilize mask production. For example, 500,000 masks have been produced by the local population with the International Rescue Committee, being distributed in Cox's Bazar, the main refugee area in Bangladesh. And that's managed to keep the disease so far under control, or at least as far as we can see. And so I think there's some lessons from these States as well as well as real concern.

ZAKARIA: As you know, there is not much appetite in the United States to think about these issues. What would be your case? Make the case why it is important for America to help these countries.


MILIBAND: The case is that this is a connected world. And so there are two critical aspects of the call that we're making to the United States Congress to put $20 billion out of the trillion that they're talking about for the next COVID package.

The first is that there'll be no full return to normality in the U.S. - business normality until the global situation is brought under control. We know about the links between the global supply chains and they're not going to be changed overnight. However, the debate about reshoring goes. So the first part of the argument is a sheer strategic argument that says the United States for its prosperity, in part, depends on the rest of the world.

The second is a global leadership point. But I can guarantee you this, the PR offensive that's been mounted by countries like China over the last five months is only a foretaste of the kind of presence that we're going to see in many of the countries that traditionally have allied with the United States. So I think there's a geopolitical case, too.

I have to also add, there's a sheer moral case. I mean, there is one doctor for 5,000 people across Africa compared to one doctor for 300 people in the United States. And those are the kind of moral challenges that, I think, are very important for a country that takes itself seriously like the U.S. But I think they're buttressed by the strategic business case as well as the geopolitical one.

ZAKARIA: David, let me ask you finally, you're a former Foreign Secretary of Britain, the leading light of the Labour Party for many years. What explains Britain's pathetic response to COVID? I mean, this is a country that after all has had very good government I mean, I remember Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore once telling me that one of the great advantages Singapore had was that they inherited the traditions of British bureaucracy. How is it done so badly?

MILIBAND: Well, obviously it grieves me as a Brit who is a proud Brit now living in the U.S., but still a citizen - and with many friends and family, that it grieves me the situation. I think that I would put it down to first of all a bravado that turned into negligence, because the U.K. was very late to lockdown. While the rest of Europe was locking down in March, the U.K. government was still saying that it was not necessary.

I think the second aspect of it speaks to the public administration point you're raising, which is that when it comes to the test and trace system, which is obviously so fundamental to controlling the disease, the British response has been marked by incompetence, I'm afraid.

And so when you put those two things together, you see why the U.K. has tragically ended. up with the largest number of excess deaths in Europe. That's something I never wanted to see. And it is a situation which is not yet under control as the latest flurries have shown over the last two or three days.

ZAKARIA: David Miliband, always a pleasure to have you on. Thank you so much.


ZAKARIA: When we come back to words TikTok, TikTok. I will explain what that means and you should understand it when we come back.



ZAKARIA: And now for the last look. TikTok, TikTok Donald Trump says the clock is ticking for this popular app for teenagers. In case you're unaware, TikTok is a social media platform for short form videos, whose already high popularity exploded during quarantine. For Gen-Z teens and Millennials it is a light hearted home for choreographed dance moves and viral videos.

But a diverse set of institutions had already banned it internally from Wells Fargo to the Biden campaign, from the Indian government, to the U.S. Army. What in the world is going on? Well, TikTok collects information from users like their location and what they are saying and messages to other users. That isn't much different from what other social media companies gather.

The real difference - TikTok's parent company ByteDance is Chinese and there is a fear that tens of millions of them Americans interests and movements could be handed over to the Chinese Communist Party. In addition, the skeptics say, Beijing could use the platform to promote itself and restrict ideas it doesn't like.

Perhaps in response to these concerns, ByteDance seem to be looking for American ownership for TikTok. First American investors were reportedly trying to buy a majority stake in the company. Then "The New York Times" learned that Microsoft was in talks to buy it outright. But Trump said even this would not be enough to ease its security concerns, threatening to ban it entirely. Meanwhile, TikTok points out that the app is not even available in China, and says it has not and will not turn over American data to Beijing. But governments around the world find it difficult to imagine any Chinese private company withstanding the might of the Beijing government, especially with a 2017 Chinese law requiring that companies assist in intelligence gathering when asked.

Let's not forget, China is consistent ranked the world's worst abuser of internet freedom by Freedom House. Still, TikTok has worked hard to demonstrate its independence from China. When the controversial national security law came into force in Hong Kong earlier this summer, TikTok took the drastic step of removing itself from the city entirely.

In May, an American CEO replaced the Chinese one and TikTok insists that its data servers are in Virginia and backed up in Singapore, bypassing China entirely. And to be fair, many of the voices outside of Washington DC who urge TikTok be banned are simply afraid of the competition.


American tech companies envy the success TikTok has had with young people. And many technology experts say that mandating transparency and regulation, instead of banning it outright, is the best way to confront any threat that TikTok poses.

But these arguments are getting drowned out as hostility toward China increases. TikTok is one of the opening salvos in an emerging battle of technology between the world's two largest and most dynamic economies, a new tech Cold War.

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