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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Egypt's Response to the Israel-Hamas War; Biden and Xi Meet Face-To-Face in California; U.S.-China Tensions Over Taiwan; China's Economic Anxieties; The Legacy of Zero-COVID In China. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired November 19, 2023 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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 program, we'll bring you latest on the Israel- Hamas war. The "New York Times'" Nick Kristof is just back from the region and will give us a sense of what he calls the myths and the reality.
Then, is Egypt part of the problem or part of the solution? It shares a border with Israel and Gaza. Can it help during or after this brutal war?
And the leaders of the two most powerful countries in the world met face-to-face on Wednesday for the first time in a year. Presidents Xi and Biden shook hands and then met for four hours. What was accomplished? Did the iciness of the relationship thaw? I'll talk to Australia's former prime minister Kevin Rudd and "The Spectator's" Cindy Yu.
ZAKARIA: But first here's "My Take."
Between the tragic ongoing war in Gaza and the Biden-Xi summit, one crucial global crisis is in danger of being forgotten. The war in Ukraine. And this is a terrible time for it to be slipping from public consciousness because Ukraine faces trouble on two fronts.
As the country's chief military commander, General Zaluzhnyi has acknowledged a stalemate has developed on the battle ground with Russia. Ukrainian soldiers are fighting heroically in places like Kherson, but the lines of control are lately moving just a few kilometers. Despite the drones and the Starlink connectivity, this is looking like trench warfare during World War I which ground down for four years.
The second front that is equally worrying is in the West, where support for Ukraine is weakening. Despite President Biden's passionate advocacy, his package of aid for Ukraine is not likely to pass any time soon. Europeans are also losing their determination. During what she believed was a private call, Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni admitted I see that there is a lot of fatigue. I have to say the truth from all the sides.
One side that is sticking to its guns is Russia. The Russian army has learned from its mistakes in the early months of the war and has built powerful defensive lines in eastern and southern Ukraine. It has laid huge mine fields, built deep and fortified trenches, and set up large artillery units behind the trenches. Ukrainian soldiers have to get past all three of these barriers to gain an inch of ground.
Russia's vast military industrial complex is churning out weapons from shells to drones. Its much larger economy and population are enduring advantages that can only be encountered by consistent and high levels of Western support.
The Russian strategy based on my conversations with Russian officials and those close to them is to hang tough, refuse any serious negotiations, and wait for November 2024. They believe there is at least an even chance that Donald Trump will be elected president and he will want to end America's entangling alliance with Ukraine and cut a deal with Putin. Whether that is an accurate analysis or not, it does suggest that Moscow is unlikely to be willing to negotiate any time soon.
Is there anything that can be done to address these twin challenges -- stalemate on the frontlines and waning support in Western capitals? Actually there is. A policy that can help on both fronts. Set up an international and legal process by which Russia's $300 billion plus of frozen reserves could be used to aid Ukraine's reconstruction, which the World Bank estimates would cost more than $400 billion over the next 10 years.
In one swoop, that would signal to Putin that Ukraine will not face a funding crisis and that even were Trump to be elected these funds administered through some international body, say in Switzerland or Belgium, would continue to flow to Kyiv.
There are challenges to this policy. Russia's reserves lie in various countries but European allies hold most of it and their governments worry that they don't have the legal authority to divert them.
Lawrence Tribe, the distinguished legal scholar, and some of his colleagues have written up a definitive case as to why it would be legal and appropriate to go down the path of using Russian reserves for Ukraine's reconstruction. Former Treasury secretary Larry Summers, former World Bank head Robert Zoellick and former 9/11 Commission executive director Philip Zelikow have argued persuasively that it is good policy.
Tribe's basic argument is that Russia has engaged in a massive and systemic violation of international law and norms. And that it's appropriate, indeed necessary for there to be some price to pay for this. To reject this logic in favor of one that protects Russia's property rights is perverse since Russia has engaged in brutal sustained violations of Ukraine's property rights and taken the lives of thousands of its civilians as well.
Russia's attack on Ukraine is a core violation of any conception of a rules based international border. It strikes me as right and wise to force it to pay a heavy price. But how that policy is pursued matters. In the past the U.S. has tried to enforce its own conception of international rules and norms unilaterally, often generating huge international opposition. The approach we should take this time is the opposite.
This policy should be rooted in international consensus, law and norms. Legal opinions like Tribe's should be presented and international legal organization and process of adjudication and claims should be established, and the funds handled through it.
Russia's assets and Ukraine's reconstruction should serve as a building block for international law and norms that help shore up the rules-based order. As Summers, Zoellick, and Zelikow note, if this case sets the precedent that a country that engages in naked aggression might find that its dollar reserves are in jeopardy, that is not a bad precedent for a world in disarray.
So let's get started.
Earlier today, Qatar's prime minister offered some hope that the Israeli hostages or some of them might be freed soon. Doha has been mediating negotiations between Israel and Hamas. The PM said good progress had been made in recent days and that the only remaining obstacles were minor and logistical.
Let's go to CNN's Jeremy Diamond in Tel Aviv who has the latest.
Jeremy, can you give us a little sense of what are those minor logistical obstacles that need to be overcome?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems at this point a lot of it has to do with the mechanisms that are involved to actually get these hostages released for Israel to abide on its side by the pause in fighting, multiple days of pauses in fighting in order for these hostages to get out, in order for humanitarian aid to get in.
But what's really important here, Fareed, is that it appears that multiple parties involved in these talks all seem to be saying that effectively we are closer than we ever have been to a deal that could see dozens of these hostages freed from the Gaza Strip and returned to Israel. We heard the Qatari prime minister as you just mentioned say that there has been good progress, that the challenges are mainly logistical.
The Deputy National Security adviser in the United States, Jon Finer, just last hour telling Jake Tapper that we are closer than we have been perhaps at any point in these negotiations since weeks ago, and he also -- and we also heard from the Israeli ambassador who said that he was hopeful, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, he was hopeful that there could be a deal in the coming days as well.
Now it's important to obviously underscore all of that optimism with what we have witnessed over the last several weeks which is that we have seen at other points that we have come close to a potential deal and talks have fallen apart. And that is because these talks are extremely fraught, they're extremely complex, they're also not talking to each other. Israel and Hamas aren't talking directly to each other. They are talking via the Qatari government, and so that adds another layer of difficulty to all of this.
ZAKARIA: And Jeremy, briefly what is going on meanwhile in Gaza? What is latest on the war, the violence?
DIAMOND: Well, the Israeli military still has yet to answer very important questions about a strike that took place at a United Nations school in the Gaza Strip. Dozens of people were killed. We have video showing dozens of bodies on the ground of the school on both levels of that school. In one room alone you can see about a dozen bodies covered in dust, tables overturned, desks shattered and a massive hole in the wall.
The United Nations says that it does not know who was responsible for that strike but already several Arab governments in the region are pointing to Israel as the culprit.
The Israeli military says that it is looking into the incident. Meanwhile, though, there is one bright spot today, Fareed, and that is that more than 30 of those premature babies at Al-Shifa Hospital who were in that neonatal unit, they have now been evacuated from Al-Shifa Hospital to the southern part of the Gaza Strip, and they are expected to then be evacuated to Egypt. So some progress on that front.
But overall, Fareed, the humanitarian conditions in Gaza remain extremely dire and the Israeli military for its part continuing to press ahead with its offensive -- Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Jeremy Diamond in Tel Aviv, thank you so much.
Next on GPS, I will talk to Nicholas Kristof who will dispel what he calls some of the myths about this conflict.
ZAKARIA: Let's talk more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with Nicholas Kristof, columnist for "The New York Times." He recently visited Israel and the West Bank, and has been writing with real nuance and sophistication on the war in my opinion. His latest column on the subject is called "What We Get Wrong About Israel and Gaza."
Hi, Nick. You talk about three myths and I just want to quickly list them. The first myth is that this is a conflict in which, you know, it is absolutely morally clear all the right is on one side and all the wrong is on another, and you point out actually it's a clash between two rights. The second you say is that the Israeli myth that the Palestinians issue can be strung along indefinitely, the can kicked down the road indefinitely.
I want to get to the third one, though, which I think is one I've heard so often in recent days, particularly from Israeli friends of mine, which is that it's too bad that we have to use so much force but the other side only understands brutal violence. This is something I've heard a lot of people say in Israel. We live in a rough neighborhood, we just have to show that we can be absolutely brutal, and perhaps even irrational in our use of violence.
Why do you think that that's a myth, in other words why do you think that's wrong?
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: So, I mean, I guess, first of all, I would just note that there is a certain symmetry there, that just as Israelis say that about Palestinians, so Palestinians say that about Israelis. That there is, you know, we have no peace partner. That the only way to get attention to this cause is to blow things up. And I don't think it works.
You know, having watched this crisis as you have over the years, what you do see is that violence and hardliners tend to lead to violence and hardliners on the other side. You know, why is Netanyahu in power? I mean, he took power in part after Hamas was engaging in suicide bombings, you know, originally back in the 1990s. It was Hamas' takeover of Gaza that kind of helped destroy the Israeli left and the Labour Party there.
And so many times in Gaza, I've talked to children and you ask them what they want to be and, you know, they don't want to be a firefighter, they don't want to be a doctor. They want to be shahid, they want to be martyrs, and that's because they've lost family members close to them, and I think that we are again in this cycle of violence that simply perpetuates it. And, you know, I don't think that's going to advance Israeli interests or obviously Palestinian interests when, you know, half of 1 percent of the Gaza population has already been killed.
ZAKARIA: Do you think that -- you talk about how each side in a sense, you know, reinforces the other. Do you think it's as cynical as -- that the hardliners on each side almost want each other? You know, there were many reports about how Bibi Netanyahu has said we need Hamas because it ensures that there will never be a Palestinian state because we have divided Palestinians, we have two different parties one of which is a terror group.
KRISTOF: So, Fareed, I mean, I think for the most part, people, you know, the Israeli right, the violent end of the Palestinians, you know, for the most part I think they're doing what they think will -- you know, will help their own interests. But is there an element of what you say? And, you know, Netanyahu thinking that one way of undermining a Palestinian Authority and reducing the possibility of a Palestinian state down the road is to support Hamas? Absolutely. And is one element of Hamas's attacks the idea that they can do what a
scholar friend of mine calls jujitsu, that in other words have Israel overreact and then create international sympathy for Palestinians, help project this issue on to the international agenda? Yes, I think that is an element. And I mean, one thing that I think both sides have in common, including Hamas, is that they don't greatly care for the lives of Palestinian civilians.
ZAKARIA: You say in your column, but based on your observations in the region, Hamas may be winning. Explain what you mean.
KRISTOF: So, as far as we understand, Hamas motives -- they wanted to fundamentally change the dynamic with a particularly brutal attack on Israel, and that that was one aim of just the extraordinary savagery of the attack.
So Israel, in the course of a not terribly precise set of attacks, a ferocious set of bombing, it I think clearly has elevated the Palestinian cause. It has dissipated the initial pouring of sympathy for Israel. And I think it has also put Israel on a compressed timeline. It will make it harder to continue the fight against Hamas indefinitely. I think there is going to enormous pressure on Israel to curtail this.
And you know, I look around and I don't -- for now I don't see obvious signs that Hamas' military power has been hugely degraded, but I do see some of these signs that Hamas has managed to elevate the Palestinian cause, generate sympathy, and you know, the focus has also moved off the Israeli hostages, who, you know, one would hope would be a greater attempt to get them back.
ZAKARIA: Very briefly, Nick, you were in the West Bank, anything to report from there that struck you?
KRISTOF: Oh, boy, Fareed, it's just -- it's so sad. I mean, I don't think I've ever seen it just so on edge, so much -- people have lost hope. You know, they're convinced that again that Israelis only understand violence. That there is no peace option down the road. That there is no trust. And in that context, I think there is some risk of explosion. I wonder whether that might extend to Jordan as well given its large Palestinian population. And I just really worry that the next chapter of this is going to be something -- some big crisis in the West Bank.
ZAKARIA: Nick Kristof, always a pleasure.
I wanted to mentioned Nick's efforts every year to identify the best nonprofits to support in the holiday season. Go to KristofImpact.org to see his list. It's on "The New York Times" Web site as well.
Next on GPS, a conversation about the most important neighbor in this conflict -- Egypt. When we come back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [10:26:37]
ZAKARIA: There is currently only one viable way out of Gaza. The Rafah Border Crossing controlled by Egypt. It opens under the Sinai Peninsula. For the first three weeks of Israel's siege, Egypt's government kept the crossing closed. Now it is intermittently opened to let a trickle of aid into Gaza and a few foreigners and injured Palestinians out into Egypt. That despite fact that the Egyptian public has rallied in large numbers in support of the Palestinians in Gaza.
So what is motivating the Egyptian government's decisions and what whole might the nation play once the hot war is over?
Joining me now is Tariq Masoud, a professor of Democracy and Governance at Harvard.
Tariq, so help us understand Egypt's sort of basic orientation because generally speaking people have tended to view Egypt as a country that in some sense has been part of the containment of Hamas. It was enforcing the blockade in various ways over the last 16 years. It doesn't let Palestinians in. How has it reacted to this attack, the Hamas attack?
TAREK MASOUD, PROFESSOR OF DEMOCRACY AND GOVERNANCE, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL: Thanks. Great question. Thanks for having me, Fareed. It's good to be with you, despite the quite catastrophic circumstances. So, look, the Egyptian reaction to what happened on October 7th is very plain. They've been calling since day one for a cease-fire. You know, one of the I think problems and I think Nick Kristof mentioned this in your earlier segment, is that we've kind of blown past the horrors of October 7th.
The Egyptians moved past the horrors of October 7th almost immediately because they felt that they could see what was coming down the pike which was a massive retaliation operation by the Netanyahu government in Gaza that would yield a humanitarian crisis of incredible proportions and that would put Egypt under a great deal of pressure. So Egypt from the very beginning has been calling for a cease-fire.
They've been calling for restraint. They convened, remember, a peace conference in October that didn't yield anything but it was a pretty clear demonstration of what Egyptian intentions were. The Egyptians today are trying to negotiate along with the Qataris with Hamas to get a cease-fire in exchange for the release of some hostages.
ZAKARIA: But there are a lot of people who think the Egyptian government tends to play this game of public support but privately they kind of want Israel to destroy Hamas?
MASOUD: I think if the Israelis could invent a weapon that would only target Hamas members and leave the people of Gaza and the infrastructure Gaza intact, I'm sure the Egyptians would sign on to it, but the Egyptians know there isn't such a thing. And if you look the Egyptian conduct, if you look at their public statements, they've constantly been telling the Israelis, be careful, stop. If you look at statements of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, if you
even look at the statements of President Sisi, they have been calling for restraint and I think they're calling for it publicly and they're calling for it behind closed doors.
ZAKARIA: But Sisi has been known, for example, to be very tough on, you know, versions of Hamas in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, for example, tens of thousands of its members are jailed. Is he doing this because public opinion in Egypt is very strongly now pro-Palestinian?
MASOUD: Absolutely. Public opinion in Egypt is very for Palestinian. But the Egyptian government didn't come from Mars, right? The Egyptian government emerges from the Egyptian people.
And almost without exception, Egyptian officials feel a great deal of sympathy with Gazans and feel that the Israeli retaliation against Gaza -- remember, Fareed, according to some accounts there have been more civilians killed in Gaza in the last, you know, six weeks than civilian Ukrainians have been killed since February 2022. So, this is a humanitarian crisis of catastrophic proportions.
ZAKARIA: So why wouldn't the Egyptian government let Palestinians into Egypt?
MASOUD: A couple of reasons. If you read President Sisi's public statements, he has said in part that allowing Gazans into Egypt will destabilize Egypt because suddenly now you'll have millions of people, millions of Gazans in the Sinai Peninsula. Some untold number of who might be Hamas fighters who would then use Egypt maybe as a staging ground for their operations against Israel. And then suddenly Egypt, which since the peace treaty with Israel has been part of the solution in the region, would once again be drawn into the theater of war and be part of the problem. So Sisi is very concerned about that.
The other thing he is concerned about that he has said very publicly and every Egyptian official you talk to will say very publicly is that they do not want to be party to the displacement of Palestinians from Gaza because they believe that once the Palestinians are pushed out the Netanyahu government will never let them back in. And so, there are fears, I don't know if they're credible or not credible, but they are deeply felt that Egypt does not want to be part of what would be termed as a second Nakba, the second displacement of Palestinians from their lands.
ZAKARIA: Finally and quickly, post conflict. There are all these discussions about an Arab force, an Arab government, some -- a Palestinian authority. What do you think happens post conflict?
MASOUD: I think that is a very difficult question. I think there is a couple of things. Some of the proposals that have been offered seem more to me like pipe dreams idea that Egypt and Saudi Arabia et cetera would come in and somehow governor Gaza -- instead of, you know, Hamas or instead of Israel, seems unrealistic. The Egyptians have a difficult time governing themselves. I think there is also not enough attention paid to again the cost to Egypt of being involved in such a thing. What is that line Metternich said about France? If France sneezes, Europe catches a cold. If Egypt sneezes the Middle East gets cancer.
And to the idea that you would put Egypt in this position which could be very destabilizing for the country I think is one that should give us real pause. The issue in Gaza right now is once Hamas has been tamed, the issue is establishing governance.
I don't know how we do that. I know how we don't do that and that's by getting very beleaguered, weak, impoverished countries in crisis like Egypt to try to shoulder that burden.
ZAKARIA: Tarek Masoud, always a pleasure.
MASOUD: Thank you, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, Xi and Biden. Kevin Rudd tells us what happened.
ZAKARIA: The most important bilateral relationship in the world, that is how President Xi described the U.S.-China relationship as he sat with President Biden this week in California. The four-hour meeting was their first in the year amid very strained relations between the two nations.
Joining me to discuss the outcome of the summit and what lies ahead is one of the world's leading China experts, Kevin Rudd. He served as Australia's prime minister and is now that country's ambassador to the United States. He's also the author of "The Avoidable War," on the dangers of a U.S.-China conflict.
Kevin, welcome. Tell us, it seemed to me that this was very different mood music from what we have been hearing from U.S.-China meetings ever since really the start of the Biden administration, that Anchorage summit with the neutral accusations. Did it strike you that way, and if so, why?
KEVIN RUDD, AUSTRALIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Well, Fareed, I think it is both different mood music and it is also a different base note as well. I think having looked at these meetings now over the last 30 or 40 years of my own career, you get to a sense of the rhythms and the changes within each of them. And over the last two years we've gone from near catastrophic engagement, you mentioned Anchorage, to where we are now, which is a meeting which if you will summarize it up, it is about stabilizing the geopolitical relationship. And if they can bring it about, making it more strategically predictable.
Why has China moved in that direction? I think the overwhelming domestic driving force for Xi Jinping has been a weakening Chinese economy. The growth numbers are bad and part of that is because geopolitical uncertainty affecting international investors and domestic investors within the Chinese economy. There are other factors too.
So, from his point of view, bringing the geopolitical temperature down a bit serves those underlying economic interests. And for America, I think the Biden administration, legitimately, has sought stability in the U.S.-China relationship because it does not want to take these two great powers to the edge of a catastrophic conflict.
ZAKARIA: Do you think on the American side, part of what is also motivating Washington in having a more -- because Washington's tune has also changed. Is it some of the concerns or pressure from business -- I mean you can almost hear the sigh of relief coming out of the likes of, you know, Tim Cook and Elon Musk that things are stabilizing.
There is a lot of business to be had. Xi made that point in a dinner with U.S. businesses. Could that be one the factors here?
RUDD: I don't really think so. I mean, I've looked very carefully at what the administration has said and done over the last 12 months on this. And essentially the administration policy has not fundamentally changed.
It is said you should not coerce economically our allies. It is said we need to achieve real progress in mil-mil. It is said we need to resume collaboration on things like climate change. And the United States throughout has said that we want a stable and predictable relationship.
I think the big change dynamic here in all fairness to the U.S., Fareed, has -- the depth of the Chinese economic slowdown has really brought about a fundamental relook at the dynamics of this relationship. And speaking of major American corporates, of course, they'll breathe a sigh of relief. That's normal and natural, and so they should.
But here the proof of the pudding will lie in the eating. That is, we can talk about a resumption of mil-mil dialogue between the PLA and the United States' armed forces, and this is a good step forward. It will be the substance of these two or three sets of new tracks and what it will deliver which will either determine whether there is a material change in geopolitical instability across the Taiwan Strait and in the South China Sea or whether there won't be. And what boardrooms are reacting to around the world in Europe and in the United States is this underlying fear that we were beginning to move step by step inexorably towards crisis, conflict and war.
So, corporates will be wanting to know now just the dialogue has resumed. It will be what is the substance of that producing in terms of a de-escalation across the Taiwan Strait?
ZAKARIA: And what did you hear on that front? Because from what I read -- Xi essentially said, you know, this is the reddest of red lines for us, Taiwan. And we ask you to not to help Taiwanese independence in any way, not keep arming Taiwan. And the administration for its part keeps saying, you know, we adhere by what the status quo, all of the various communiques. But we also ask China not to send as many airplanes and get as close to Taiwan's, you know, border as it is getting. So, did you see anything different here, you know, something that is reassuring?
RUDD: In the official formulations on the Chinese side and I've just read the Chinese text, by the way, their readout, no, there is no change in their formulations on Taiwan or for that matter the South China Sea.
Now, one practical area that we could see progress in if China was serious about doing this would be to cause Chinese aircraft to stop crossing the median line in the Taiwan Strait which they now do regularly causing Taiwanese fighter jets to scramble and so many near incidents that it is frightening. That is been a patent since the Pelosi visit to Taiwan not so long ago.
Returning to the status quo ante on that would be good. Plus, frankly, depending on the electoral outcome in the Taiwanese presidential elections in January, our friends in Beijing not to recourse to other forms of military and economic coercive pressure against whatever political outcome the Taiwanese electoral process delivers. There are two measurables and that will go back to affecting the underlying shall we say geopolitical climate, not just as seen by governments but by the boardrooms of the world which is where Xi Jinping has his target most.
ZAKARIA: Kevin Rudd, always learn from you when we listen to you. Thank you so much.
RUDD: Good to be with you, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, more on the Biden-Xi summit. What is the view from China? What are they saying when we come back.
ZAKARIA: Let's keep talking about the Biden-Xi summit. How was it perceived in China and what is the mood in China more generally these days? I'm joined by Cindy Yu a careful China watcher who is an assistant editor of the "Spectator" and hosts the Chinese Whispers podcast. Welcome, Cindy.
So, Kevin Rudd was saying he thought that the economy and the state of the economy was the principal motivator behind Xi's sort of course correction. You were in China recently. Do you get the sense that people are anxious about the economy there?
CINDY YU, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE SPECTATOR: I think so. Very much so. There is a bit of a long tail of economic recovery that's happening China instead of this post COVID bounce where everything just comes back because lockdowns were ended this time last year. It's actually being a long schlep this year where -- you know, when I was this China over the summer, no matter who I spoke to, whether it was your local taxi person, or a high-ranking business man in Shanghai, the story was very much the same. Don't feel economically secure right now, don't feel confident in the state of the country. And so, people are being very, very careful about what they're spending money on. About their views for the future. If they're making business decisions they are holding off for now.
And so, I think basically what we're seeing is that the last three years of zero-COVID, didn't go past that quickly. You know, they don't just disappear. People are a bit traumatized and their wallets and their bank accounts certainly are not as healthy as they were in 2019.
And so, in China confidence, consumer confidence is very much low at the moment and I think that is manifesting itself in all sorts of ways.
ZAKARIA: So, the statistics that I've been struck by looking at is if you look at 2019, the first six months of 2019, 8.5 million tourists visit China. First six months of 2023 it is about a half million. So, there is this dramatic falloff. And it feels like part of a larger story of China that was once was very integrated into the world, closing itself off. Did you see some of that?
YU: Yes, absolutely. I mean, during the pandemic in particular there were moment where's it felt like Chinese people were quite suspicious of foreigners even. There was one point where they thought foreigners were the ones bringing COVID into China. And so, there was really this feeling of, I'm not sure about that one. And we don't want to go out there when COVID is not being controlled in the rest of the world.
It is easy to forget how quickly that regime has gone, that zero-COVID regime, only last December. So, less than a year ago. And so, people with this mentality will take a little bit longer to shift, I think. That is the psychological part of it.
There's also economic practical part which is just that direct flights. Some of those ones that were canceled during the pandemic haven't been resumed and that is why it was one of the things on the agenda for Xi and Biden this week. And so, I think, these things take time.
It will go back to the kind of globalized way that we are -- we get used to in the early 90s and 2010s but it will take some time and it also depends on geopolitics. I haven't met very many western tourists who want to go to China because China's reputation is so short from three years of zero-COVID. So, yes, we'll have to see basically.
ZAKARIA: Interesting. Now, when you look at the way China is playing the Biden-Xi visit, it is back to normal in the sense of good relations, friendly. The Americans and the Chinese are great friends, none of that old suspicion. They're marveling that Joe Biden liked the Chinese car that Xi was driving.
ZAKARIA: Do you think that this is all a very concerted state effort to shift the narrative?
YU: Absolutely. I mean, this APEC summit has been in the planning for months now. And as Kevin Rudd said, ever since February, the spy balloon incident -- both sides have been kind of thinking how do we pull this out? How do we pull this back? And the Americans have been making more overtures, going to China over the summer but the Chinese have been preparing for this as well.
You know, they have been looking forward to this November summit. And you see that in state media over the summer, over the course of the last few months has been this shift where instead of America doing wrong, oh, it's how did the Chinese and Americans collaborate during the second World War? You know?
What kind of other things like Elon Musk, a great American businessman. We like Elon Musk. And then from this particular summit one of the things that is going viral is Biden showing Xi Jinping -- a photo of Xi Jinping from San Francisco from 38 years ago. And, you know, this kind of chumminess is going viral in Chinese social media.
So, it is all quite carefully curated. But, I think, for the Chinese people, for public opinion, as much as we can generalize about 1.4 billion people. You know, generally speaking it is not an anti- Americanism deep seated one. It tends to be very much kind of riled up or dampened down by state narratives. So, how deeply that kind of anti-Americanism is, I think, we see from here that actually it's not too deep.
But it is important to say that in the Chinese portrayal of the event it always Xi, you know, front and center. It's always Xi saying, I don't believe in the second Cold War. I don't believe in this. I don't believe in that. And Biden is a supportive actor. So, I think that that prioritization is still important to keep in mind.
ZAKARIA: In other words, it is a communist country with a supreme leader.
YU: Absolutely, yes.
ZAKARIA: When you -- when you were in China in the summer were there things that struck you as, you know, different in post COVID China that surprised you? Give us a kind of a feel for the place.
YU: Absolutely. Yes. So, I thought there would be way more COVID signs. I don't know what it's like in the U.S. But certainly, in the U.K. there are still this kind of legacies from COVID, the social distancing posts. There's that kind of stuff that remind you of the era.
In a lot of the places that I went to in China, in Beijing, Shanghai and Nanjing and other city, all of those were gone. So, you know, the COVID infrastructure, I was shocked by how quickly it left. But what shocked me even more than that was the amount of surveillance there is in China now compared to when the last time I was there four years ago in 2019. And I'm not saying this is as government surveillance but it is the technology behind those CCTV cameras, facial recognition that private companies as well as local governments have taken and run away with. Such that you'll be driving down a really long road in a major city in China and cameras will be flashing at you every now and then. Not because you're speeding but because they just want to know who is in what car.
If I go and commit an armed robbery, they would be able to track me down very quickly because of the amount of data that has been created by this nexus of private companies, local governments and central government. So, I thought that was just so interesting how prevalent that technological advancement has happened in China where as we know it's a country where things -- when change happens, it happens very fast.
ZAKARIA: And do you feel as though there is a sense of relief that relations with the U.S. are better? Or, you know, what is the underlying condition for people -- for ordinary people?
YU: Definitely, because, you know, we talk about the Chinese economy slowing. And in the West, it is easy to think, oh, well, that's because the CCP has screwed it up. They have done something wrong. But actually, a lot of Chinese people thought it was the Americans having their boot on our neck. Why are they at us? Why are they trying to contain us?
And so good relations with America have been welcomed on social media at least. Again, Fareed, it is a big country. It is very hard to generalize about the public opinion without scientific polling for obvious reasons.
ZAKARIA: Well, you give us a very good picture. Cindy Yu, pleasure to have you on.
YU: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Thanks to Cindy and thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.