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Health Care, One of the Leading Issues for Democrats and Independents; Andy Slavitt, Former Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and Sarah Kliff, New York Times Investigative Reporter, are Interviewed About Health Care; U.S. and China Trade Talk Ends With No Progress; Minxin Pei, Professor of Government, Claremont McKenna College, is Interviewed About U.S.-China Trade War; Notes From a Young Black Chef. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired July 31, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 30,000 people dying while the health care industry makes tens of billions of dollars of profit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Health care at the center of the Democrat's bid to unseat Donald Trump. But should they fix what exists or go big and bold? We'll dive
into the policy and the political.
Plus, U.S./China trade talks end with no progress. A top expert explains what China is thinking in all of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KWAME ONWUACHI, CHEF: She told me i wasn't coming home until I learned respect.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNNI CONTRIBUTOR: How long did that take?
ONWUACHI: Two years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: From the Bronx to Nigeria to the most exciting rising chef in America, our Hari Sreenivasan speak with Kwame Onwuachi about his
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
As Democrats debate who is best placed to defeat Donald Trump in 2020, a central question has risen above the others, should the party respond to
the president's populist policies by staking out the sensible center or should the party answer in kind, reaching for new, big, bold change? Put
another way, are we watching the battle of the progressives versus the moderates?
And nowhere is that debate more clearer than in the discussions around health care. It ranks as the most important issue for Democrats and
Independents. Whether it's Joe Biden and Kamala Harris tonight or Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren facing off against former Congressman
John Delaney last night. Here's a taste.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN DELANEY, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think Democrats win when we run on real solutions, not impossible promises. When we run on things that
are workable, not fairytale economics. Look at this story of Detroit, this amazing city that we're in. This city is turning around because the
government and the private sector are working well together.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I don't understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of
the United States just to talk about what we really can't do and shouldn't fight for. I don't get it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: To discuss all of this, Andy Slavitt. He is a former insurance executive who ran Medicare under President Obama and helped get the
Affordable Care Act on its feet, and he's now head of a venture capital fund that invests in health care industry start-ups. He's joining me from
Minneapolis. And also, "The New York Times'" Sarah Kliff is one of America's leading health care reporters and she joins me from Washington.
Welcome, both of you, to the program.
So, we're dealing with not just the fisticuffs and the entertainment value of so many of these debates, but the real issues that matter to voters,
that matter to the nation and that these candidates are trying to distinguish themselves on. So, health care, as I said, is one of the
Andy Slavitt, since you've been dealing in the policy of this, tell us generally what this boils down to.
ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER ADMINISTRATOR, CENTERS FOR MEDICARE & MEDICAID SERVICES: Well, thank you, Christiane. You know, these debates are off-
course about drawing out distinctions, but I think the most important point shouldn't get lost. Each one of these candidates is for universal
coverage. And this is a debate about how.
And so, while there are clearly distinctions that you're hearing, what will really is is a yawning chasm between where all of them are and where Trump
is. And to some degree, what you have is a little bit of a fight over whether sky blue is better than powder blue. Because for most of the
American public, you know, they want to be able to afford to take care of their family, they want to be able to get covered and they don't want to
have to worry that someone is going to take that away from them.
And I think as we move to the general, any of the candidates will be a candidate that should they become president, will be able to say that if
something comes across their desk that makes Americans more secure, that gives people more coverage, they'll sign it. And Bernie Sanders may be an
exception to that. You know, he's a little bit more strict.
So, there are distinctions. You know, I think the principle distinction, as pointed out is that in some cases, there are -- there is a camp of
candidates led by Biden, led by Michael Bennet and Amy Klobuchar and others, Kamala Harris, who want to keep Americans to be able to have a
choice between a government plan and a private plan, either something they have today or some other one. And then there's Sanders, who is a little
more strict, and wants to be in a system where there is a much diminished, if not no role for the private sector.
So important differences, but all of them trying to get to the same place.
AMANPOUR: So, that Sanders-Warren position is Medicare for All, right, in shorthand?
SLAVITT: It is. Although, it's interesting [13:05:00], is that those labels are becoming more and more meaningless, because underneath a phrase
or a brand like Medicare for All or Medicare for All who want it and so forth, there's both an offering from Kamala Harris, which contains a
private sector option, and an offering from Sanders and Warren, which doesn't.
So, the trap of these labels is less and less useful and less and less meaningful than some of the differences in the underlying policies. Should
you be able to have a choice of being able to keep a private sector plan or not? And I think the -- that is a meaningful distinction to people. But I
think in the main, it's an extraordinarily smaller difference than where we are versus where we've been historically. And then where that party is
versus Trump, who is still pursuing a lawsuit to undo the Affordable Care Act in its entirety.
AMANPOUR: And that's our guess where we come down to the politics and perhaps some of what you, Sarah Kliff, investigate in your reporting for
"The New York Times." I mean, I'm speaking to you from London, the United Kingdom, which is the proud home of the National Health Service, an
entirely public sector, you know, provider of care and doctors and hospitals and the payer and everything. North of you, as was mentioned in
the debate is Canada, which has a similar or identical situation.
So, I just want to ask you where you think, in terms of the politics of it, the American people are and how much -- I mean, what are the candidates
appealing to in terms of what the people want?
SARAH KLIFF, NEW YORK TIMES INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: I think what the candidates are appealing to is the fact a lot of Americans are really
frustrated with our health care system. One of the things I do a lot in my reporting is talk to patients about their medical bills and they're just
getting overwhelmed with medical debt. You know, I talk to someone who had a bike crash and ended up with a $20,000 bill, which is not something
that's going to happen in London, in Canada. It's a uniquely American story.
So, I think what you see right now, our candidates are responding to the fact that Americans are still, even after the Affordable Care Act did get
millions of people insurance, there's still a lot of frustration with the costs. I think the big question is, what kind of solution is it that they
want? I think most of us here in the U.S. would say, we want affordable health care. That's kind of the base line. But how are taxes going to
And one of the really key fundamental divides, I think you're going to see play out in this primary is whether Americans think that health care is a
right. Mr. Sanders, obviously does. He says this again and again. But when you look at the public polling, it's not quite clear that all
Americans are with him. That, you know, we do have a sizable amount of our country that doesn't think that health care is a right, that might object
to the government paying for more Americans' health care.
I think that's a really key philosophical divide that we're going to see play out in the public and play out on these primary debates that we're
AMANPOUR: Yes. And actually, you are absolutely right, obviously, about the polls. The Kaiser Foundation poll has said the public has largely
favorable views of employer-sponsored insurance, 76 percent. And of course, Medicaid, 75 percent. Majority, obviously, likes Medicare, 83
percent. But both of those with Medicare coverage and employer coverage rate their own health insurance coverage positively. So, you're outlining
exactly the sort of debate that's going on in the country amongst different sectors of the population.
I just want to ask you, quickly, Andy, about the tax question because that is something that's always asked. And you know, read my lips, no new
taxes. No matter which way it's presented, it's used as a trip up question to candidates over and over again. And Elizabeth Warren was asked it, and
she said, you know, corporations and the richest of the millionaires and billionaires will pay more, but the middle class will not pay more for good
health care. Can you explain how this offer will be funded?
SLAVITT: Sure. Well, the juxtaposition of health care and taxes is a really, I think, fascinating topic in the U.S. right now. In some part,
what we saw in 2018, in the midterm elections in the U.S. was health care superseded taxes as a more important issue, because for many Americans, the
impact of the affordability of health care has a greater impact on their pocketbook and their bottom line than what their marginal tax rate is.
And we saw people fundamentally saying that if they can't afford to take care of their families, if someone gets sick, they really can no longer
stay in the middle class. And so, health care protection, in many ways, is a safety net underneath them and it's a ticket to the middle class. And
so, when the policies of taking away coverage for pre-existing conditions and so forth came to light, that turned out to be much more [13:10:00]
important than the tax rates were.
So, each of these plans, I think, has -- is really competing less today on how they're going to pay for itself than on, are they going to
fundamentally provide that level of security? Now, some of the plans that are more ambitious like Sanders' plan has a bigger ticket and a bigger
number, and he has proposed taxes that would go all the way into the middle class and believes that that's a trade-off that Americans would handle.
There's obviously a lot of candidates who believe that's not necessarily. And it's really less, I think, driven by the concern over raising taxes
than it is over what to do with the 150 million plus Americans that do get their coverage through their employer. Their employer pays 70 percent of
that benefit. And they're really loathe to trade something that they have, even if they don't love it, for something that is unknown. That what we
have to deal with is that many of the new jobs in our economy in the U.S. today don't come with health benefits.
So, it's not just an answer to just stay as it is, but we have to figure out how to do this in a way that Americans find palatable.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, that's interesting. And I'm going to throw this soundbite from one of the debates this -- from Tim Ryan, congressman from
the manufacturing belt about the whole idea of employer-funded insurance and, of course, the union workers who did make a trade and who like their
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Here we are in Detroit, home of the united auto workers. We have all of our union friends here tonight.
This plan that's being offered by Senator Warren and Senator Sanders will tell those union members who gave away wages in order to get good health
care that they're going to lose their health care because Washington is going to come in and tell them they have a better plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Sarah, does he have a point?
KLIFF: Yes. I think this is one of the key questions that will come up in the debate. You know, if you talk to a health economist about this, they
would say that academic theories suggests that when you take -- if you were to move to a single-payer system, if we were -- if I were to lose my health
insurance at Vox -- or here at "The New York Times," then I would get higher wages, but we've never really tested out that theory. We don't know
if the automobile manufacturers, if they're going to give back in wages whatever folks are losing in health insurance.
So, that is -- you know, that is one of the big, big questions here in the United States. I think when I look at other countries, like Canada, like
the United Kingdom, when those health care systems launched, there wasn't that much of an employer-sponsored system. Here in the United States,
we've gone very, very far down a road of a very complex, you know, very fragmented health care system. So, if we want to transfer it to one big
government plan, it raises so many questions about what's going to happen to wages, what's going to happen to benefits? And some of them you don't
know the answer to until you actually try it, which creates a lot of big unknowns in the Medicare for All world.
AMANPOUR: And just to point out, it's not that you mistaken where you work, Sarah, you did just recently transfer from Vox to "The New York
Times." Andy, let me ask you about the case study, ordinary Americans, that Senator Warren raised. Her friend, Ardy Bracker (ph) who -- actually,
Ady Barkan rather, who ALS. He has 35 years of political activist and he was watching the debate and, you know, she told his story about how even
with health care, he still has a $9,000 shortfall and his wife and his friends are having to go hand-in-mouth, so to speak, or rather, cap in hand
to get some extra funds. And he was not thrilled with the way the debate was conducted. This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADY BARKAN, CO-DIRECTOR, BE A HERO: Man, that was exhausting and infuriating. It's like the media doesn't understand that health care isn't
just some abstract policy issue, but actual life and death. Roll with me. Health care is too important to too many people for a 30-second soundbite
shouted between 10 different candidates on a stage, moderated by journalists who are not pissed off enough about the reality that so many
American families are facing in the richest nation in the history of human civilization.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, he's angry. Obviously, that was professionally recorded. His NGO group that supports him did that and you tweeted out that
soundbite. So, Andy, you know, you've been at the heart of policy for the Obama administration and for a very long time, what is the best way to
conduct this debate. How should one be addressing these fundamental questions?
SLAVITT: Well, look, you know, at this point in time, we're in a moment in time when it's sort of, as you framed it properly, it's all points
[13:15:00] for boldness. And, you know, who has the most bold plan? And I think to some degree, we have to make allowances for that in the debate. I
think, you know, Ady is right, asking people to raise their hands or give canned answers isn't going to satisfy anybody.
But the thing that, I think, we should step back and try to understand is that a plan to cover every single American and take off the table the risks
that Ady faces and that anybody that gets diagnosed with cancer faces, remember, in the U.S., as hard as it is to believe around the world, if you
get diagnosed with cancer within two years, 40 percent of people have spent through their life savings. That has to change.
And any plan that does that is plenty bold, you know, I think in most people's view. So, you know, this is a -- we have to remember, this is a
debate about how. The candidates will be smart to leave themselves enough room to make sure that they don't eat up all the oxygen with their debate
about how and focus on drawing the distinction from Trump.
Because as a practical matter, as we all know, the way legislation is shaped here in the U.S., particularly with the Congress that's at odds, is
that the president can push, but ultimately, we're going end to up with a piece of legislation that probably doesn't look like what any of the
Democratic candidates have ideally in their minds.
So, we all need to know their general direction. But what we really need to know is, would you sign any legislation that help solves Ady Barkan's
problem and millions of people like his, or would you not? And I think this is where they can run this race and they run it on these core
pocketbook issues and this is, I think, how they can win the midwestern states they need to win.
AMANPOUR: So, let's now run this soundbite from Senator Elizabeth Warren, talking about the direction forward.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: Our problems didn't start with Donald Trump. Donald Trump is part of a corrupt, rigged system that has helped the wealthy and the well-
connected and kicked dirt in the faces of everyone else. We're not going to solve the urgent problems that we face with small ideas and
spinelessness. We're going to solve them by being the Democratic Party of big structural change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Sarah, you do the reporting on a lot of this, obviously, in the emergency rooms, but also presumably around the politics of the policy.
She's talking about the big structural change, as we put it, the big, bold, new change versus the, you know, sensible center, incremental reform. Are
Democrats and independents who care about health care, are they ready to follow that wing of the party? Let's just put it on this issue?
KLIFF: I think they're increasingly ready, but not 100 percent, you know, ready to pull the trigger on this. What we see in the polling is a slow,
steady increase in support for Medicare for All. If you look at polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation, you see that over the past 20 years the
numbers creep up by a few percentage points each year.
We're not talking about a ground swell, we're not talking about, you know, 80, 90 percent poll figures saying, yes, we want to switch to a single-
payer system. But I think what you're seeing is an increasing openness, an openness in places you might not expect it.
You know, I've had -- in some reporting I've done in pretty Republican areas of Kentucky, I remember one voter who just said to me, you know,
"Wouldn't it be great if we had something like Canada," because she was so fed up with the deductibles and the premiums and the co-payments. So, I
think there is an openness. But at the same time, the other thing the polling shows us is that Americans' views on this right now are really
malleable, if you tell them that employee-sponsored insurance would go away, they get quite negative. If you tell them deductibles will go away,
they get quite positive.
So, we're at a moment where Americans are more open to Medicare for All, but they're also not totally set and that's why I think you're seeing this
debate happen both within the Democratic Party, but also then, you know, with President Trump getting involved, as well. Everyone realizes that
Americans are still making up their mind on Medicare for All and they see an opportunity to try to sway people in different directions about that as
AMANPOUR: So, here's a different direction and this is in response to Warren and Sanders, John Delaney, Steve Bullock and John Hickenlooper have
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DELANEY: I think democrats win when we run on real solutions, not impossible promises. When we run on things that are workable, not fairy
GOV. STEVE BULLOCK (D-MT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is an example of wish list economics. It used to be just Republicans who wanted to repeal
and replace. Now, many Democrats do as well.
FMR. GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This notion that you're going to take private insurance away from 180 million
Americans, you might as well FedEx the election to Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Andy Slavitt, who has been in the policy world on this, is that right? [13:20:00]
SLAVITT: Well, look, you know, I think pragmatism doesn't play well in soundbites as much as everything else. But, you know, I think we are
zoomed in a little too closely at looking at this distinction.
I'll give you another example, Christiane. Every Democratic candidate in these debates has been speaking about the need to take on prescription drug
companies and prescription drug costs. Insulin in the U.S., which costs about $15 a vial to produce costs about $250, and in Canada it costs $40.
And when you look at the issues that most Americans really care about, it's if someone in their family gets sick, are they going to be able to afford
to pick up that prescription?
And each of the Democratic candidates has been in the same place on this. So, it doesn't make for good copy. But what's interesting is Trump, who
has actually made a lot of noise and a lot of populous noise about taking on prescription drug companies and special interests really doesn't --
hasn't established that he's actually done anything in that regard.
So, I would suspect that as we get through this primary period, we get to the general, we will be looking at, I think, a much stronger contrast, and
that's where I think through this primary process, we have to allow this kind of how would I do things come to light, but not too much concern that
the argument you just played is one that's going to be dominating the next general election in the next 18 months.
AMANPOUR: So, if the argument, Sarah, is not dominating and the facts are, as we saw in the midterms, health care was the leading fact, certainly for
the Democrats, and they won the House, are they -- I mean, is it going to be?
KLIFF: I think it's still going to be a key issue in this election. And it actually surprises me a little bit, as someone who's been covering this
for about a decade that Democrats are so enthusiastic about working on health care in 2020. If you think back to when the Affordable Care Act
passed in 2010, you know, there were definitely a number of seats lost in the midterms. For a while, Democrats didn't seem to want to talk about it.
They felt it was politically toxic.
But it seems like this attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, that's emboldened Democrats to say, "Health care is our issue, and we are," as
Elizabeth Warren would say, you know, "we are going to fight for it." And I think you'll see in the primary, this debate we're seeing play out in the
debates now about the best approach. But then I think you might see a bit of a switches. You know, Andy was just saying when we get into a general
election, towards defining themselves against Trump. Towards saying, "We're going to protect pre-existing conditions. We are not signed on to
this lawsuit that would repeal protections for pre-existing conditions."
And then, you know, the last piece of this would be governing, if we have a Democrat in office, I think one of the key questions we'll be confronted
with is one of the questions you've seen playing out in these debates. Do they go for the biggest change possible, do they go for single payer, or do
they go for a less disruptive, more attainable change like a public option?
So, these questions, they aren't going away and Democrats seem to be really racing into having a debate about them.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And again, really, really, really front and center, as somebody who, you know, sits in a country that has a National Health
Service, I can see what Andy was saying, that the big debate is whether health care is a human right. And I think that is something that's
crystallizing in the United States right now.
Thank you very much, indeed, Andy Slavitt and Sarah Kliff, for joining us.
So, we turn now to the trade war with China. Indeed, it may not be until one of those Democrats is in office until a solution is found. We say
Democrats because President Trump himself doubts anything will change before the election, because he thinks perhaps the Chinese are banking on a
Democrat winning and being slightly easier on China.
Two days of talks between American and Chinese negotiators ended in Shanghai today without any progress or any end in sight for tit for tat
tariffs. The White House called the meetings constructive and said that they would resume in September.
My next guest says that America's China policy has become entirely adversarial. Minxin Pei is professor of Government at Claremont McKenna
College, which is in California. And he is joining me now from Washington.
Minxin Pei, welcome back to our program.
MINXIN PEI, PROFESSOR OF GOVERNMENT, CLAREMONT MCKENNA COLLEGE: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So, you've written a lot recently, particularly in advance of this latest round of talks between the Chinese and American negotiators.
What did you make of how it ended? I mean, we sort of know that nothing big came out of it, but any incremental that you could detect?
PEI: Not much. I don't think the Chinese are in a hurry to conclude a deal with Trump for a variety of reasons. And in fact, I think the window
of closing a deal is rapidly closing if the negotiations drop beyond this year, next year would be a presidential [13:25:00] election, so we just
don't see -- I just don't see any deal can be done in an election year.
AMANPOUR: So, let me play this sound bite by President Trump in which he talks about the dragging out of these trade talks from China's perspective.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: China would love to wait and just hope -- they hope -- it's not going to happen, I hope. But they would just love if I got defeated, so
they could deal with somebody like Elizabeth Warren or Sleepy Joe Biden or any of these people. Because then they would be allowed and able to
continue to rip off our country, like they've been doing for the last 30 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Analyze that for us. I mean, there is no doubt that China has been treated very, very well by the West for many, many decades now. Do
you think that is what they're angling for? Wait and see who wins the next election?
PEI: Well, I would say it's a little more sophisticated than how Trump put it. A Democrat can be better or can be worse that than Trump. But from
the Chinese point of view, nobody can worse than Trump in terms of trying to negotiate a deal with. Because Trump in throughout this process has
shown a propensity to change his terms and to -- also, in dealing with China, you have to be very conscious about not humiliating them in public,
and Trump has been doing this all the time. And which really has upset them.
But I think fundamentally, the Chinese have concluded that the deal with the U.S., at this point, has lost a lot of its value. The heart of a trade
deal is about supply chains. Because of the trade wars, the expectations that these two countries can have a stable economic relationship have been
bashed, shattered, really. And regardless of a deal or not, the supply chain will move out of China and the Chinese believe that they may end up
much worse off if they do not stick to their own terms.
AMANPOUR: And yet, on the other side, look, the IMF has just basically downgraded Chinese growth and upgraded U.S. growth. Isn't there a case to
be made that actually the United States would like to drag on these talks because actually it is hurting the Chinese economy more than it's hurting
the U.S. economy. Let's not talk about American consumers who are paying for this tax. We know that the farmers are getting a $16 billion payout,
because they're hurting and China is already going elsewhere to get soybeans and other things.
But in general, isn't President Trump's strategy here proving to be, at least in zero-sum term games, correct?
PEI: Yes. I don't think President Trump himself has a real strategy. But his geopolitical advisers do have a very sophisticated strategy. Their
strategy is to sue the tariff war, get the supply chain out of China and fundamentally weaken China's economic growth. This strategy will probably
work in the long-term. In the short-term, growth can be driven by a variety of factors. In the case of the U.S., probably, I would say,
deficit spending, tax cut plays a much more important role than a trade war with China in delivering some kind of positive growth numbers.
AMANPOUR: So, as you --
PEI: And Chinese growth -- yes. Sorry. China's growth is dragged down not really by the trade war. Trade war plays a part. China's growth is
dragged down by its very high level of debt and its growth models, which based on investments.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, I spoke just earlier this week, we had a rare conversation with Peter Navarro, who is the president's sort of trade guru,
and this is what he said about the bigger picture in terms of this battle, as you've termed it, this new cold war between the United States and China.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER NAVARRO, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF TRADE AND MANUFACTURING POLICY: This is not a trade deal in the traditional sense, where one
country lowers tariffs and the other country lowers some tariffs. The problem we have with China is structural. China engages in various forms
of economic aggression.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: How do you respond to that? Do you agree with various forms of economic aggression and the idea that a structural issue needs to be
PEI: Well, I don't like the term economic aggression, but I do believe that the two economies have very different systems and what we're seeing
today, the problems between the two countries are really the problems between the two economic systems.
And the heart of that really has to be the change of China's economic system.
But the Chinese government has decided not to go down that path. And as long as that remains the case, the two economies will continue to have very
serious economic frictions and tensions.
AMANPOUR: So Minxin Pei, you have also written that it's not just about trade. I mean you have basically said that you believe the heart of the
Trump administration's confrontation with China is to undermine and weaken China as a strategic rival.
It's not just about economics and trade. It's about the entire, you know, relative power of these two economic superpowers. Flesh that out for me.
PEI: Yes, I'm afraid that is the case. Because the U.S. has had trade frictions with many of its allies as the countries of the world. You
really have not seen the kind of toughness, the kind of rhetoric, the kind of determination in which this trade war with China has been waged.
In the heart, it's really about our concerns about China's rise, China's role in the world, and the prospect that China could be one day a hedge
strengthening American core interests.
AMANPOUR: You know, again, I think this is what Peter Navarro thinks and he tried to push back on me when I was talking to you and he asked me a
question. Just listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR, TRADE AND MANUFACTURING POLICY: Can I ask you a question?
AMANPOUR: If you like but this isn't really you asking me questions. I'm interviewing you.
NAVARRO: Just one question. Do you agree with the premise now that China and its economic model provides a negative effect on the global economy?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So he's asking me to comment on that. I mean I'm not positioned to do that, so I would ask you to comment on it.
PEI: Well, I think empirically, that's completely untrue because China's economic growth has been a huge driver of global growth, because China
plays a central role in taking raw materials from other countries and process raw materials, plus advanced components from developed countries
and then sell them to other countries.
So China is part of the global supply chain. I think what we should worry about China is something the Chinese government has hyped itself. China
tries to use its own economics' development success to show the world that capitalism works, state capitalism works.
So its model has some kind of ideological appeal. Even though anybody who studies China, would know that China's state capitalist model is highly
inefficient. What makes the Chinese system work is the entrepreneurship of the Chinese people, China's business people and China's connections with
the outside world.
AMANPOUR: So that's interesting you should say that. Because I guess one of the centers of entrepreneur, I mean there are many in China, but
Shanghai is one, obviously.
And I've heard, told that many young entrepreneurs there are kind of sitting back and saying, yes, this is the first time that an American
president or a western leader has pushed back and has put China on notice and saying, enough already. You guys have been treated with kid gloves the
last few decades.
And there's a little bit of sort of admiration amongst a certain group of people to this pushing back against this monolithic, massively growing
strategic rival that is China.
PEI: Oh, yes. I think within China, the private sector business people are actually rooting for the trade war because they want the trade war to
open up China's economy. Not just to the outside world, but more importantly to domestic entrepreneurs.
Because the biggest victims of China's state capital system is not really China's trading partners. Of course, they are victimized by unfair trading
practices, poor protection of IP.
The real victims are China's prime entrepreneurs because they have no property rights. They have -- they constantly face discrimination. They
do not have dependable access to financing.
So if the playing level field can be [13:35:00] created as a result of the trade war, the biggest beneficiaries are actually going to be Chinese
private entrepreneurs rather than American corporations, even though American corporations will benefit.
AMANPOUR: So we've got a couple of minutes left. I want to do sort of a rapid fire round, which goes beyond the economy, because you studied China
I just want to ask you, what do you think is going to happen in Hong Kong? The Chinese have so far showed no inclination to intervene militarily or
any which way. How long are they going to tolerate this?
PEI: I think they'll probably going to wait two more months because China has a very important anniversary, October 1 which is the 70th anniversary
of the founding of the People's Republic coming up. They have serious extravagant festivities planned.
They don't want to ruin that celebration. After that, they would just wait and see whether protests continue to escalate or whether protests get out
AMANPOUR: And regarding the Uighurs, there's been a lot of criticism from the United States and around the world of the alleged internment of perhaps
more than a million Uighurs, the Muslim minority in China into reeducation camps. We've done a lot of reporting on it and it's quite a dramatic
There are reports. I don't know whether you know about this that Chinese say most of the interned have now been released. Can we trust this? Do
you think that's happened?
PEI: I think anything from the Chinese government, you've got to take with a huge grain, if not a ton of salt. I think the best thing for the Chinese
government to do in this particular instance is to allow open inspection, welcome third-party, independent credible parties to go into Xinjiang and
to see those camps and see whether people have actually been released.
AMANPOUR: All right, Minxin Pei, always good to have you on with that perspective. Thanks so much for joining us.
And now for a real palate cleanser as they say in the color recorders of the world, we turn to the joys of food and an extraordinary personal story.
Kwame Onwuachi grew up in the Bronx with an abusive father. After misbehaving in school, he was sent to Nigeria to live with his relatives.
But when he returned, he fell into a life of gangs and drugs.
But against all odds, Onwuachi managed to pick himself up and get through cooking school. Today, he's part of a new wave of kitchen trailblazers and
he sat down with our Hari Sreenivasan to talk about his new memoir "Notes From a Young Black Chef".
HARI SREENIVASAN, CONTRIBUTOR: Kwame Onwuachi, thanks for joining us.
KWAME ONWUACHI, AUTHOR, NOTES FROM A YOUNG BLACK CHEF: Of course. It's a pleasure to be here.
SREENIVASAN: Your dream restaurant, you got to open it, by the time you were 26.
SREENIVASAN: Right. The menu was weaved with your autobiography. This is something that you actually went out on almost a road show and you honed
this. What is that story?
ONWUACHI: So it was a restaurant called the Shaw Bijou, you know. It was in the Shaw District of Washington, D.C. It was an historical black
Bijou means jewel in French, which is my mother. I've always wanted to name my first restaurant after her.
So it was kind of like a double (INAUDIBLE). It was like the jewel of the Shaw. And we took this 200-year-old Italian row house and completely
transformed it into a restaurant.
We're talking, you walk in, we structured the stairs to go straight up to a bar as soon as you walk in, and that was where your first course was. And
there was a staircase that went into the kitchen and you had your next course. Then you go into the dining room and go back into the kitchen at
some point in time.
So there was like a lot -- it was very interactive. It was very fun.
SREENIVASAN: What were the type of dishes and how were they informed by your life up to that point?
ONWUACHI: It was, you know, it was a narrative of my life story. So I remember the first course was inspired by my Jamaican grandmother.
So I made like jerk duck prosciutto with a latorice (ph) stuff, like almost cigarette-looking tube with pistachio oil and pesto powder and quints and
pineapple curd. And it was like this very Caribbean, but nutty and wholesome first snack.
And we had so many other courses. We had a butter garlic crab that was inspired by my trip to Mumbai, this restaurant I really love called
Trishna. That's a butter garlic crab but we used Norwegian king crab and we made a bottarga out of uni and we tried to push the boundaries as much
as we could and innovate while still paying homage to the narrative and it only lasted three months.
SREENIVASAN: What did you learn from that experience?
ONWUACHI: To pick better partners.
SREENIVASAN: Was it about the money? Was it about the --
SREENIVASAN: But the food was solid?
ONWUACHI: Food was solid. [13:40:00] I mean businesses close because they run out of money. That's it.
And for a restaurant to be only open three months, we just did not have enough working capital to get us through that hump.
SREENIVASAN: So you grew up in lots of places, but really the Bronx for until you were about 10-years-old.
SREENIVASAN: What did you get from your mom? Did cooking come to you at that age?
ONWUACHI: Yes. I mean she started a catering company in our one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx when I was about 5-years-old.
So we and my sister became her first two employees and --
SREENIVASAN: Sous chefs?
ONWUACHI: Little sous chefs. It beat doing laundry. But I was peeling shrimp, fabricating vegetables at a very young age.
And I think it really instilled a couple values in me at that time. You know, entrepreneurialism, creativity, and a passion for cooking. And it
really shaped my career path and what I really wanted to do.
SREENIVASAN: So at the same time, when you're not being a good sous chef, you're going to school and sometimes getting in trouble for it.
SREENIVASAN: What kind of trouble were you getting into in school?
ONWUACHI: I was known for doing pranks, being a class clown, but also staying out past when I was supposed to be home and smoking cigarettes in
the park with my friends.
So I was getting into a lot of trouble, I would say more than the average 9 or 10-year-old. And it's easy to do in the Bronx. It's easy to veer off
on that wrong path.
I mean I was saw as a problem, not just like as a problem child, but just as a problem, who would never really get his stuff together, get his act
together. And I was given up on by a lot of my teachers at a very young age.
SREENIVASAN: At one point, your mom decides, why don't you go to Nigeria for the summer, hang out with -- this is where your dad is from. And the
summer gets a little longer than you had expected.
SREENIVASAN: What happened?
ONWUACHI: Well, I was there. My mother told me I was going to Nigeria to visit my grandfather.
And it was September and school starts in September in New York. And I called her.
I mean -- and I had to drive to a call center. It wasn't like I just picked up the cell phone and she told me I wasn't coming home until I
SREENIVASAN: How long did that take?
ONWUACHI: Two years.
SREENIVASAN: And did you learn it?
ONWUACHI: A little bit, yes. I think so. I learned it enough to come back.
SREENIVASAN: What did she mean? What was the problem that she thought spending a couple of years in Nigeria would solve?
ONWUACHI: I think it was really learning to appreciate the things that I have here. Things that you can't really teach and things that I was taking
for granted whether it was consciously or subconsciously at that age.
So running water, electricity, you know, harvesting and raising your own food. You know, things that the rest of the world has to do, that make you
-- if you don't go through that, you tend to forget that the things that you have are a privilege. You're privileged, you know, with the basic
means that we have here in America.
So if you can internalize that and think about them on a day-to-day basis, you can then really explore the opportunities that are here.
SREENIVASAN: So you come back with this greater appreciation for life and a few years progressed and you join a gang. What happened? Why'd you get
on this track?
ONWUACHI: I became a product of my environment. I came back definitely with a greater appreciation, but then started to get into the same types of
situations that got me sent out there in the first place.
And my mother moved to Louisiana for my senior year in high school and I was kind of left to my own laurels a little bit.
SREENIVASAN: Here in New York.
ONWUACHI: Here in New York, yes.
SREENIVASAN: And so at this point, you are starting to deal drugs and you're a part of a gang. You get into a college, but you're still dealing,
and that's the reason you end up basically getting kicked out of school, too.
ONWUACHI: I went went to college with like zero dollars in my pocket and I had to figure out how to even pay tuition myself. So I did what I could
and I ended up getting addicted to that fast life.
And I remember the wake-up call for me was Obama winning the election and seeing him walk across the stage. Now, I had voted for him. I was very
hopeful that a black man would become president, but I didn't think it would happen.
And when I saw him walk across that stage, I mean I thought to myself like, like it hasn't even been 45 years since segregation was technically ended
on paper, and here we have a man walking across [13:45:00] television as the next president of the United States. If he can do that, I can do
SREENIVASAN: And so this was literally the night after a party and you're just kind of walking around dazed. And I want to read this paragraph that
you have about this.
I had never felt so alone or so rootless. I was hung over, strung out, and depressed. When I looked at what my life had become and who I had become,
I felt a total estrangement.
Something about seeing Obama in the television and when I turned the set off, seeing myself in the reflection brought myself into clear focus. I
felt the world was moving forward without me. So what do you do after that?
ONWUACHI: Well, right after that, I flushed everything that I had down the toilet.
SREENIVASAN: All the drugs?
ONWUACHI: All the drugs. I gave whatever I had away to friends that were there and booked a one-way plane ticket to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
SREENIVASAN: And that's where your mom was?
ONWUACHI: That's where my mom was.
SREENIVASAN: And you also wrote that not until you were out on a gulf oil spill recovery ship that you really felt like a chef. What happened on
ONWUACHI: So I had worked a lot of odd jobs. I worked as a line cook. I worked as a waiter. I worked as a busboy, a dishwasher.
But when I was on that boat, I was solely responsible for feeding 35 people, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, planning their meals, ordering the
ingredients and making sure the kitchen was clean. I was creating the schedule for better or for worse, for people's livelihood.
They were working and they were eating and they were sleeping. So I was in charge of a third of what brought them happiness for that day.
So my mother's creole, so I grew up cooking shrimp etouffee and gambo and red beans in rice and shrimp creole and things like that. And seeing the
direct expressions on their face and reaction after we did this small little transaction, that's when I felt like I was on my way.
SREENIVASAN: And so, by the end of that trip, you're thinking to yourself, I can do this, and you want to come back to New York City, you want to go
to school and you don't have the money.
SREENIVASAN: So you're hustling candy on the subway. And a lot of people that are watching this might never have been in a New York City subway but
you see these folks going through all the time with their stories.
What was your story? What was your pitch?
ONWUACHI: So my spiel was, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, sorry to bother you, I am selling candy in order to start a catering Company and
payoff my student loans.
SREENIVASAN: That's unique enough where you're like what, that's strange.
ONWUACHI: Yes. And then I had like 15 different items and I would say all of them and like people would be laughing because they would think it's
over. I would have a pause. And then be like and I have butters and nuts, some roasted peanuts, and roasted cashews and gum and then people would be
SREENIVASAN: And the hustle worked?
ONWUACHI: It did, it did.
SREENIVASAN: How much did you make off the candy?
ONWUACHI: I saved up about 20 grand.
SREENIVASAN: That's huge --
SREENIVASAN: -- off candy sales.
SREENIVASAN: I mean so how long did that take you?
ONWUACHI: Two months.
SREENIVASAN: You also say that this was also a time when you asked both of your parents for support. Your mom, you say, gave you everything she had.
And you had a conversation, what you say is one of your last conversations with your dad and you describe abuse in that relationship.
ONWUACHI: You know, he just wasn't willing to let me forget my past and what I had to do, whether it was selling drugs and, you know, pretty much
suggested that I do that again if I wanted to go to school.
SREENIVASAN: Instead of getting money from him, why don't you go back to selling drugs?
SREENIVASAN: You described this in a paragraph that I want to read. It said one of the heaviest burdens of walking through life with the scars of
abuse is loving your abuser, respecting then, trusting them, because if you do, it means you deserve their scorn, their blows, their insults. But when
I left that day, I took with me a check for 200 bucks and a set of car keys and that's it.
He cut you down verbally, psychologically, beat you down physically. Where did Kwame find the center to get through that?
ONWUACHI: I think my relationship with my mother was very, very integral in me moving forward. She gave -- she would shower me with love and
understanding, even though I was a really tough kid to deal with.
When she was raising me, it was hard, because she was always teetering on the line of trying to discipline me without let me lose my will because I
always had a strong will. So having her kind of like guiding me through life and trying to teach me lessons at the same time was very integral to
me moving past that and not really thinking that was me and who I was.
SREENIVASAN: So [13:50:00] you get through the CIA, the central -- not the other -- the other CIA, the Culinary Institute, which is prestigious in
itself. And you are in the pressure cooker world of the high-end kitchens in New York City.
When you look around, even whether it's through your education or the high- end restaurants that you worked, did you see a lot of other people of color working?
ONWUACHI: No, not at all.
SREENIVASAN: What was the dynamic in those places? Because in the book, you end up calling out a couple of people and pointing to instances where
you felt that it mattered?
ONWUACHI: Yes. I mean the dynamic was uncomfortable. It was -- the dynamic was not welcoming in some aspects.
And a large part of that is because there wasn't anybody around that looked like me. The biggest example that I have is the stuff that goes unsaid.
It's easy to call somebody a name, the n-word or something out of line, because that can get blown up and someone can lose their job.
But the stuff that goes unsaid, the looks that happen, the continuing being passed upon in your station or someone being promoted over you constantly
and constantly, that's the most detrimental form of racism in any single organization.
SREENIVASAN: There's a recent "Times" article that looked at 16 black chefs in America and how you're influencing cuisine. And one of the things
that came up and I wonder if this happened to you is when you're out there talking to diners, they're saying, let me talk to the chef, kind of looking
right through you. Has that ever happened? Because you're kind of famous now?
ONWUACHI: For me, people come to the restaurant to --
ONWUACHI: -- eat my food, so it's a little different in the dining room. But it's funny, the contractors and purveyors that work through the back
door and they're like, "Where's the chef, I need somebody to sign this?" And they're asking me to go get the chef or they look at the only white
server and ask him to sign something.
I wrote an article about it in "Food & Wine" and it happens all the time. I don't think about it anymore. I usually just don't even bother with it
but it used to get under my skin.
SREENIVASAN: And then what about the environment that you're trying to create in the kitchen, at the intercontinental Kith and Kin? This is now
you're now the boss.
You're deciding who to hire. So what are the things that you're looking for?
ONWUACHI: I look for character. I look for someone that's a good person over a resume.
Because I can teach you how to sear a steak. I can teach you how to fillet a fish but teaching you how to care, teaching you to want to do the right
thing when nobody is watching is really, really hard.
So I try to teach people who come in with that attitude that want the place to be successful, that have a goal. And that's my main focal point.
Now, I have a lot of chefs of color and women that gravitate towards me because I think it's a safe space and because I look like them. They have
someone that they can see, something that they can aspire to be and it's attainable. It's right there in front of them.
So it's a really cool dynamic. I haven't seen a restaurant, a fine dining restaurant with that much diversity in the dining room and in the kitchen.
SREENIVASAN: And you want these people to go off and be chefs elsewhere?
SREENIVASAN: You've picked up the James Beard Rising Chef Award, which is great. You've expanded not just the restaurant you're working in, but
you've got your own kind of passion project you're launching. What kind of restaurant is that?
ONWUACHI: It's a Philly cheesesteak restaurant. So we do Philly cheesesteaks, chicken wings and waffle fries. We also have a mushroom
version, chicken version, and Brussel sprouts as well.
SREENIVASAN: And that's not what you can get at the intercontinental the Kith and Kin, just a little bit of a fancier experience.
SREENIVASAN: Right? So is this -- is that part of like saying, this is what I really would want to eat if I just went out on a Saturday night
versus the fancy stuff here?
ONWUACHI: Well, I want to eat both. I mean I think the food is refined but it's also the food of my people.
So it's like it's fancy for people who don't really know it, but people that grew up eating it, it's just like jerk chicken. I think I eat jerk
chicken every day, at least a small piece of it.
But I've always wanted to do this Philly link fry project, so when I got an opportunity to do it, I just did it.
SREENIVASAN: Kwame Onwuachi, thank you so much for joining us.
ONWUACHI: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And there is no better way to end the show than by whetting your appetite.
Now, tomorrow, we'll have more analysis and reflections on the Democratic debates in Detroit, Michigan when we dissect the front-runner Joe Biden's
performance and his policies and we'll hear also from the other 2020 Democratic hopefuls.
That is it though for now. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast. See us online at amanpour.com, and you can follow me on Instagram and
Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.