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Examining U.S.-China Relationship; Interview With Facebook Co- Founder Chris Hughes; Angry Protests in Tehran Over Downing of Ukrainian Plane; Mohammad Ali Shabani is Interviewed About Iran Protests; Danylo Lubkivsky is Interviewed About Downed Ukrainian Plane; Evan Osnos is Interviewed About U.S. and China. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired January 13, 2020 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
Anger on the streets of Iran as people protest the downing of the Ukrainian passenger plane. Where will this all lead?
And it drags Kiev into another international crisis. I'm joined by former deputy foreign minister, Danylo Lubkivsky.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Over the years we've lost a lot of money to China.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A pivotal week in Trump's trade war. Which is the biggest challenge for the United States, Iran or China?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of these privacy scandals that keep happening seem to be because there's no other real social network to compete.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Taking on monopolies, Facebook's own co-founder believes the company should be broken up.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Grief turns to anger in Iran. There are protests in Tehran and other cities in the country. There are even chants of death to the supreme leader. This,
after the Revolutionary Guards admitted to shooting down a Ukrainian passenger plane last week, killing all 176 people on board. The majority
were Iranian and Canadian.
The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, says Iran's president, Rouhani vowed to bring those behind the "tragic mistake" to justice when they had a
phone call between the two leaders.
Meantime, in videos transmitted through social media, protests in Tehran and other cities seemed to be being meet by batons, tear gas and in some
cases shots. Iran denies those claims, but many believe the regime's main objective is now to stay in power, crushing these protests just as it has
in the past.
So, let's analyze this latest turn in a dramatic story that started with the targeted killing of Iran's top military commander 10 days ago. Mohammad
Ali Shabani is a researcher at London School of Oriental and African Studies where he focuses on Iranian foreign policy.
And welcome to the program.
MOHAMMAD ALI SHABANI, IRAN RESEARCHER, SOAS UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: Let us try, because now everybody is looking at these protests and some are saying, well, maybe Trump and his hardline and his actions
have been, you know, paying dividends for him. So, first and foremost, how do you analyze from here the protests?
SHABANI: So, I think we've had two sets of protests. One set was the state kind of sponsored rallies in the aftermath of the killing of Soleimani. We
had millions of people come out into the streets. And then after that, with the shooting down of the Ukrainian passenger jets, a different series of
protesters or in some sense, it's maybe even the same kind of protesters have come out and been furious with the way Iran retaliated supposedly
So, I think the sense is outrage about not just about the shooting down of a plane but how it symbolizes, hot it epitomizes all of the grievances that
people have with the Islamic Republic about its shortcomings, about the mismanagement, about the corruption.
So, the kind of slogan out there is, your retaliation for the U.S. assassination of Soleimani was to kill 170 Iranians, not a single American
soldier was wounded. After all of that huffing and puffing about the retaliation. So, I think (INAUDIBLE) people out into the streets in Tehran
last night, even today, in some sense, I wouldn't be surprised if they were the same people who came out to mourn Soleimani.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you, because obviously Iranian authorities spent three days denying it and saying that it was a, you know, crash, a
technical failure. They called it psychological warfare claims as they started to come out, reports that it probably was a missile. But President
Rouhani and the others have made now very public apologies.
He said on Friday the Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets the disastrous mistake. My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning
families. I offer my sincerest condolences. But you can also see now these videos that have been circulating. And as I mention, even chance of, you
know, the supreme leader is a murderer, his regime is obsolete, they shouted, have you no shame. I mean, there was quite a lot of anger,
obviously, in the streets about the downing of this Ukrainian plane.
Where, though, do you think this fits in this story, in this episode of this confrontation between the United States and Iran? And, of course,
given the fact that before the killing of Soleimani, there were anti- government protests in the streets over the gasoline price hike. And earlier last year, again, over economic issues and women's rights.
SHABANI: So, I think a lot of what you're seeing in the streets, to some extent, reflect what's happening within the Iranian State. So, while
Rouhani came out and apologized for what happened, you know, without any reservations, the Revolutionary Guard commander did the same as did a
series of other officials.
The reality of the matter is that, from what I have heard from sources within the government of Iran, even cabinet members, senior members of
government were not informed about what had happened. They found out 24 hours before they announced the apologies. So, this shows that there's a
disconnect within the state itself. There are discussions, debates about how to handle this pressure from the U.S., should they enter negotiations,
under what terms, and I think the same kind of dynamics you're seeing on the streets, the people who are saying they're protesting against the
mismanagement of the authorities, about the economic conditions, which are getting worse and worse by the day.
Some of them are also saying, why do you not sit down and negotiate with Trump? So, that some of what's happening in the streets reflects what's
happening within the state. That makes sense.
AMANPOUR: Well, it does make sense actually because Iran has always been sort of, you know, all these different bits of the system that basically
end up with harmony in one place. But as you say correctly, there are these differences of the strategic and tactical issues.
So, given that it was the Republican Guard, particularly the unit, that brought down this plane, they obviously say by mistake, does this affect
what appeared to be the hardliners, for one of a better word, preparing to seize power -- not seize power but seize dominance there, you know, with
Soleimani, with all the other issues, with obviously those millions in the streets who were mourning him? Does this now stymy the Revolutionary Guard
element and maybe up the moderates a little bit or not? I mean, because there was definitely -- there's been a shift in their fortunes over the
last 10 days.
SHABANI: Yes. I mean, I fully agree with what you're saying about the potential outcome and the fallout from all of this. One way to read all of
this is to say the Revolutionary Guard have to respond. So, for instance, one of the things that has not occurred so far and we'll probably see in
coming days, is who is going to assume responsibility in practice, which means who is going to resign? So, far no one has resigned. That's one thing
to look at among the Revolutionary Guard. Will senior commanders step down?
Just last night, there was rumors about the national security adviser, Shamkhani, stepping down and then those rumors were kind of dispelled. So,
we have to see very closely what's going to happen behind the scenes.
On the other hand, with the unrest in the streets, there is of course the chance, and we've seen this in the way the Guardian Council has approached
the disqualification of candidates with upcoming parliamentary elections, they've disqualified one-third of the incumbent MPs. This shows that rather
than unclenching their fists, they're actually clenching harder.
AMANPOUR: So, these MPs would be the moderate faction?
SHABANI: Most of them, yes.
AMANPOUR: So, how does this end then? I mean, who -- is there a grassroots movement on the street or is it, as we've seen before, significant but
limited protests that eventually get put down? And how do President Trump and Mike Pompeo and other key members of the administration, you know, now
huge number of tweets supporting the Iranian people, how does this play into it?
President Trump in Farsi has said to the leaders of Iran, do not kill your protesters. Thousands have already been killed or imprisoned by you and the
world is watching. More importantly, the USA is watching. Turn your internet back on and let reporters roam free. Stop the killing of your
great Iranian people. This was yesterday.
And Pompeo, as you know, ever since the last couple of years, has been asking for protesters to send in videos and he too has been, you know, many
times tweeting at the people in Farsi. How does the U.S. or the administration's stance right now play into the dynamic on the ground?
SHABANI: I think the sad part about the situation is that there's really a way out, and both of them have set things up for a way out. The Iranians
avoided killing any Americans, which was Trump's red line in the first place. The thing that triggered the assassination of Soleimani.
On the other hand, Trump's campaign promise from the get-go was to get out of the region. And the way the Iranians have framed this course of kind of
framework about how they're going to retaliate has been the way, Rouhani put it, real retaliation means ending the U.S.'s presence in the region.
AMANPOUR: Well, this is what the supreme leader, Khamenei, said even yesterday, the reason for the current turbulent situation in our region is
the corruptive presence of the United States and its cohorts. The only way to confront this is to depend on cooperation with the region. But is there
any real, you know -- is there any real idea that Americans will leave? President Trump has said no. Even as you say, though, in his campaigns and
he's indicated wanting to pull back from that region.
SHABANI: I think in that sense the most significant factor here is not the killing of Soleimani, it's the killing of the person next to him, which is
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi national, the operative commander of a major segment of the Iraqi armed forces, killed in Baghdad of all places.
So, I just don't see it being sustainable for Americans to remain in Iraq in the long haul. I think probably they will leave by the end of this year.
AMANPOUR: I mean, that's pretty dramatic what you say. There are two points there because the prime minister has said that, you know, we've got
all these issues. President Trump has threatened to sanction Iraq and interfere with the banking transactions between the two countries.
SHABANI: I think that really the building blocks to find the way forward, either both sides have signaled it, the Iranians have said, we want you out
of Iraq, we want you out of the region. Trump actually agrees with that. That's a campaign promise. So, Trump, in some ways, is actually threatening
to sanction Iraq for fulfilling his campaign promise, and we're approaching elections in the U.S. soon.
Beyond that, I think a key thing for Trump is to outdo Obama. He keeps repeating the line that Obama gave the Iranians $150 billion, right. So,
access to their own money. Right now, we have something on the table.
AMANPOUR: So, you're saying the $150 billion was their money?
SHABANI: It was Iran's money. It was never --
AMANPOUR: Right. It's not U.S. taxpayer's?
SHABANI: So, what I'm trying to say is that we've had something on the table for quite some time now, a French proposal, to allow Iran to pre-sell
$15 billion worth of oil, to aid its economy and get the ball rolling on negotiations with the U.S.
Trump, if he seizes the momentum and the opening that's before him, at which the Iranians have offered by not attacking directly U.S. forces and
by saying that real revenge means ending your presence in the region, I think he can get away with one-tenth of $150 billion, $15 billion. He can
go back to his base and say, I outdid Obama, I got us out from the region. And this just so happens to be exactly what Iran wants as well and can
AMANPOUR: OK. But going back now to the street, as you probably know the - - you know, Mike Pompeo and others in the United States who basically do want regime change because they say it every time they come out and --
without those words, they're calling on people to throw out their unpopular regime or whatever wording they use, precisely that.
Given what's happening on the streets, is there really any deal -- room for negotiations right now or will the United States sit back? And now, Iran
has lost the sympathy vote, if you like, that it had after the killing of Soleimani with all those people in the streets.
AMANPOUR: None of America's allies, you know, supported what United States did, and everybody was trying to de-escalate the situation. Given that
there's this turbulence on the streets, could the United States, this administration, try to wait it out and see if there will be a revolution, a
SHABANI: I think there's a prospect for regime change, but not the kind of regime change Trump wants. And what I mean by regime change is that the
Revolutionary Guards in Iran may just step in and say, we're going to put an end to this show. That's the danger. So, they may get regime change --
AMANPOUR: You mean crush it?
SHABANI: Just not the kind that Trump wants. And I think that Trump, he's nine, 10 months away from elections, can he just stick it out and step back
and see what happens? It will be a big risk. I think for him the major thing is to outdo Obama. Get a deal. I think the building blocks are there.
Now, the major issue in that respect is can he get the photo op having killed Soleimani. It will be much more difficult for the Iranian president
to sit down and shake his hand and smile before a camera now than it was two weeks ago. And perhaps that was one of the reasons why some are (ph)
more hawkish told him to go ahead with the assassination. This is a problem.
So, if you can work that out and find a way to get these two sides at the negotiating table. And we have the formula already, which I just described,
getting the U.S. out of the region, get this ball rolling on the French proposal, which is a one-tenth of the sum he claims Obama gave Iran, right.
We have the building blocks there, we just have to work out the photo op thing.
AMANPOUR: It does seems such a long way in the future there, given what's happening on the ground and the sort of competing tweets.
AMANPOUR: But we'll wait to see. Mohammad Ali Shabani, thank you very much.
SHABANI: Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: From SOAS.
So, now, to Ukraine's place in this crisis, the downed Flight 752 was bound for Kiev and 11 Ukrainians were on board. For the country, there is also a
sense of trauma all over given the inevitable comparisons with flight MH17 five years ago. That plane was brought down in Eastern Ukraine by a Russian
missile and 298 people were killed. As Ukraine deals with this tragedy, it is also embroiled in the Trump impeachment drama.
Danylo Lubkivsky is Ukraine's former deputy foreign minister, and he's joining me from Kiev.
Welcome back to the program, sir.
And it seems every time I come to you it's in a terrible situation for your country. So, clearly the world offers many, many condolences to all of
those families who've lost their dear ones. And I wonder what you can say you think will be the result of the conversations between your president,
the Iranian president, whether this can be resolved in a way or whether it's yet another really tough obstacle to get over.
DANYLO LUBKIVSKY, FORMER UKRANIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER: I do appreciate your kind words and the words of support addressed to the Ukrainian nation,
certainly this warmly welcome and we do feel this great grief and pain for those innocent lives killed in that attack.
Before answering your question, let me also say that we share the same pain as many other nations whose citizens were killed in this dramatic assault.
So, this is a global tragedy and we certainly feel that no one remains indifferent to what happened in Iran, including the Iranian society. We
believe that the tragedy happened there also shook that society.
What is important right now is to ensure that there is a proper transparent investigation that is done in full accordance to the international
standards, to the international law, So, those who committed that horrific crime would be brought to justice. This is important for Ukraine. And this
sense of truth is extremely important for Ukraine's citizens.
I hope that the Ukrainian authorities, they say that they will closely cooperate with the Iranian authorities right now, will do their best to
ensure that the investigation will bring about necessary results. However, I think that strong international cooperation should be maintained so we
all know the truth, and the truth is established.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Lubkivsky, you know, the -- as I mentioned, both presidents from Ukraine and Iran, did have a conversation. Hassan Rouhani from Iran
has said Iran fully acknowledges that the tragedy was due to the erroneous actions of the military of this state.
So, I want to ask you about that because you just said this assault and I want to know whether you believe and whether the Ukrainian leadership
believes that it was a tragic error or not, or do you think there's another issue that you want to -- you know, you call for this transparent
investigation, obviously? And do you believe that President Zelensky is doing the right thing in charge of trying to get all the answers and the
compensation as he has said? He's said, Ukraine is interested in the truth, we ask all our international partners to assist in the investigation and
provide any relevant evidence that they might have.
LUBKIVSKY: There are a number of questions in what you say and let me briefly respond to all these elements. So, first of all, this is true that
there is a certain debate within Ukraine how proper was the initial reaction of President Zelensky. His initial statements, his initial
response is widely considered to be careful, cautious, even hesitant (ph). And certainly, this position received a lot of internal domestic criticism.
Nevertheless, what is important to be mentioned, that an ambiguity of the position of our Western partners strongly contributed to the truth. I also
want to mention that within 24 hours after the plane was shut down, the Ukrainian experts were already on the ground, on the site, providing the
Ukrainian authorities with necessary assessment and conclusions.
All these elements helped receive necessary acknowledgment on behalf of the Iranian authorities to acknowledge the very fact and responsibility of what
happened. This is important. Right now, it is even more important to ensure together in our joint efforts that the investigation would be done fully
and in accordance to the international norms.
Why I'm saying this? This is the matter of -- and what Ukrainian experts mentioned here in Kiev, since the tragedy happened in Iran recalls the
painful experience of MH17. In July of 2014, the reaction of Ukrainian government was immediate, quick and clear. It was clear that Russia stood
behind that shameful, unspeakable crime.
Contrary to Iran, Russia continues to deny the responsibility. And I hope and believe, I trust, that, nevertheless, sooner or later, the
responsibility for the crime happened to the victims of MH17 would be brought to justice --
LUBKIVSKY: -- and the necessary responsibility would come to those Russian perpetrators of that crime that happened in 2014.
AMANPOUR: I need to ask you to react also to the fact that your former foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin, has said, Ukraine now has the reputation
of a place that can cause all kinds of trouble. It is the opposite of everything we were working for.
So, he's obviously referring to this tragedy, to the one you mentioned with MH17, but also, of course, about your country being dragged into a
political crisis, an impeachment crisis in the United States. And there are, you know, new reports of e-mails that show particularly that, in fact,
the White House -- the White House, in fact, did order the stopping of aid to you shortly after that phone call between President Trump and President
Zelensky. I mean, where do you think that is going? And to Klimkin's case, you know, Ukraine mortally wounded, if I can put it that way, by this
dramatic series of major crises and issues in which it's involved?
LUBKIVSKY: That's absolutely a dramatic coincidence of different developments and process, that's true. But I disagree with the fact that
Ukraine is a victim of different conditions that happened to our country. I believe that Ukraine, even in such difficult conditions, under such
enormous international pressure, under the pressure of the direct Russia's offensive and brutal attack against Ukraine's territorial integrity and
independence, clearly shows and continues to show that Ukraine is a reliable international partner, a nation which fights not only for its own
interests but for the interest of the democratic world, for the interest and principles of the civilized international order.
So, I believe that all those challenges that Ukraine faces right now will make our country stronger. But this is also a message to our Western
partners to stay together with Ukraine during these dramatic developments and processes.
LUBKIVSKY: So, I remain optimistic about the strength of Ukraine. And, as we showed, in 2014 under the government of (INAUDIBLE) responding to
enormous challenges we faced when Russia attacked Ukraine, until now when Ukraine continues to be in the focus of the international attention, I
believe that Ukraine's independence, Ukraine's fight for freedom and Ukraine's contribution for the international order will be strong and would
be reliable and important for all our partners and for our nation as well.
AMANPOUR: Even under all that pressure. Danylo Lubkivsky, thank you so much for joining us from Kiev tonight.
So, now, where do these crises fit in terms of rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran which threatened to turn the administration's focus away from
In Washington today, Beijing's top trade negotiator is meeting with his U.S. counterpart. And on Wednesday, they should finalize an initial trade
deal, after three years of bitter fighting. But with the administration focused on Iran, could that be a strategic advantage for China?
Our next guest has written and reported extensively about this. His latest article for "The New Yorker" is titled "The Future of America's Contest
with China". And Evan Osnos joins me from Washington.
Welcome to the program, Evan Osnos.
EVAN OSNOS, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Thanks, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, just give us the headline, because what is America's most important strategic challenge? Is it Iran, as awful and as irritating,
you know, and as violent as this can be, or is it with China and to an extent Russia as well?
OSNOS: Well, in some sense, we don't have the luxury of choosing one over the other. These are both really and serious challenges facing the United
States, and in one sense one is the tactical challenge at the moment and the other is the long-range strategic issue.
There is no question we need to be thinking about Iran, thinking about Russia. And if that's the weather -- I mean, frankly, if that's the
turbulence and very dangerous conditions we're facing at the moment, the climate issue really is China. It's the foreign policy challenge, the
diplomatic and strategic challenge we're going to be contending with in the United States for much of the rest of this century, even if it is not on
the front page every day.
And so, the purpose of a project like this, of trying to dig into both sides of the relationship, understand what's driving them, how do they
really see the future of this very important encounter, is to understand where are we going to be not tomorrow or next month, but where are we going
to be 10 years, 20 years down the road in this important relationship.
AMANPOUR: So, we'll get to that in a second. But just as an introduction, then how does this American focus on Iran right now and all that's going
on, how is it viewed in Beijing? I mean, is it a gift for President Xi Jinping? What's going on, do you think, from their perspective now?
OSNOS: Well, officially, of course, you'll hear that China is very clear, it wants to avoid any escalation of hostilities. Privately, there is no
question that the Beijing leadership looks upon the possibility of the United States getting embroiled in another grinding conflict in the Middle
East with some quiet relief and satisfaction because it's remarkable, if you think about what the United States spent in its commitment to Iraq and
its commitment to that war, those years in which the United States was focused on those issues were an enormous opportunity to China.
I'll give you one statistic. In 2003 when the United States went to war in Iraq, the American economy was eight times the size of the Chinese GDP.
Today, of course, they are almost peers, the United States is number one, China is number two. And in those years, China used that time to build up
its diplomatic relationships around the world, to build up its own infrastructure domestically, to in invest this R and D, the kinds of things
that, frankly, we would be inclined to do in the United States if we weren't spending so much overseas.
And so, china has looked on this with a little bit of wariness, they don't want to see oil prices rise, the don't want to see loss of access of oil
from Iran. They've been relying on Iran. They are -- in fact, they are Iran's largest customer for oil abroad. And yet at the same time, the
possibility of the United States will be going down this road is not something that the Beijing government, frankly, is worried about from their
AMANPOUR: OK. So, let me just pick up on what you said. It's the kind of stuff we should be doing if we weren't spending so much overseas, which is
precisely what President Trump says when he says, I want to pull back from here, I want to pull back from there, I want you, you and you to take more
burden and more financial responsibility off of us.
So, is he doing the right thing? I mean, people have looked at how he is trying to -- I don't know what the right word is, contain, confront, get a
more level playing field between the United States and China. Is this the correct strategy and is it paying off, given what I mentioned at the
beginning, this trade deal, initial trade deal that's going to be signed hopefully this week?
OSNOS: Well, you see a lot of different attitudes wrapped up in President Trump's approach to China. Look, on the one hand, he is actually sort of
impressed with the sheer power that China has assembled over the course of the last generation. We know that he marvels at these kinds of
demonstrations of national strength. So, he admires that.
And yet, at the same time, he has been, for as long as he's been in public life, a fierce critic of trade deficits and he has also focused attention
on the challenge that China poses to American companies, on, of course, the problem of hacking and the theft of intellectual property rights, and that
focus that he has brought to that has actually been welcomed across the political spectrum. You've seen Republicans and Democrats who get behind
Where they differ, and this is important, I think it's worth talking about, it should have been an objective sense, is that there is a feeling that he
has and his administration has pushed this relationship into a point where it is now arguably at its most unsafe point for as long as these two
countries have had a diplomatic relationship since 1972. And they've done that without the support of American allies. They have not built a
coalition that says, we want to use the strength and numbers to bring pressure on China to open up its markets, to behave as a more rule-abiding
player in international rules.
And by going it alone, essentially, the America first approach, he has not only made it harder to advance his goals on China but he's also put a lot
of American allies in a difficult position where they feel as if they're being asked to choose China or the United States. So, there are both
reasons why a lot of people agree with what President Trump has done on this, even critics of his, and a lot of reasons why people think he's not
got it quite right.
AMANPOUR: So, let me just ask you to explain why you think this is the most dangerous period since 1972. You quote a White House official who told
you the relationship is in freefall and obviously, there's also danger, even unintended consequences. We've seen what's happened over Iran over the
last couple of weeks. And, as you mentioned, not only has China's economy got massively stronger, but also, it's military. And I don't know, the
Pentagon thinks that in a direct confrontation China could come out ahead. Is that right?
OSNOS: Yes, that's a remarkable fact you don't hear about as much about these days in the press.
The Pentagon has concluded that, over the course of the last decade-and-a- half, two decades, China has been systematically building up its military to defend itself and to be able to pursue its interests in the region.
That's an important distinction.
They're not saying that they're going to be sending their forces around the world to try to challenge the United States all over the place, but they
want to be able to defend themselves on their borders. They have done a series of war games the Pentagon has sponsored.
China comes out ahead on those. But I think it's important to mention, this is not an argument in favor of the United States engaging in a conflict
with China. On the contrary, this is about saying, look, this is a major opponent, a competitor. Strategic competitor is how we now describe it.
And we need to be clear-eyed about what -- what the risks are in places like the South China Sea.
I -- to answer your question directly, Christiane, you mentioned, why is this such an unstable moment? Well, we just came off of a grinding two-year
trade war that cost American taxpayers billions and left many of the underlying issues unresolved. Structural questions around intellectual
property theft, things like that are not addressed. We're going to be hearing about those for a while.
Meanwhile, you have got also competition in the South China Sea. You have got these two countries jousting in a kind of shadow war over espionage.
These issues are percolating every day, and they're not getting easier.
And so what we need now is a recognition that the old days of the U.S.- China relationship are over. And we need to come to some really clear terms about, what are we willing to accept of change in the world, and what are
we not willing to accept when it comes to what China wants to be?
AMANPOUR: Well, yes.
And you write very clearly that what China wants is to fashion the world in its own image, so to speak, for the 21st century, as the United States did
for the 20th century.
If that's China's global goal, what hope is there of the U.S., I mean, for want of a better way, either coming out with a win-win or coming out on
top, since China seems completely focused, is not a democracy? It can take whatever political and economic decisions and cultural decisions that it
wants, as we have seen.
OSNOS: I think that, actually, the United States, frankly, has a good hand to play on this.
And what I mean is that, even as China has dramatically expanded its economic power over the last generation -- I mean, to be precise, China's
economy today is 24 times the size it was a quarter-century ago, to put that in dramatic terms. And that's really been the driving force here.
And yet, as it goes around the world and begins to try to build friendships, establish the kind of sort of cultural and soft power presence
that the United States built up over the 20th century, it hasn't had an easy ride.
In fact, it's running into a lot of resistance in places. A lot of countries say, we're not so sure we want the Chinese political model.
That's what the people there say.
And, as a result, the United States, if it can, in some sense, recommit itself to the principles that have helped it build those relationships over
the course of the last century, then it is in a stronger position than if it is trying to beat China at its own game.
OSNOS: But the -- yes.
AMANPOUR: Sorry to interrupt you.
But, I mean, if you see the latest Pew polls and the rest, one of the issues that the world has with the United States right now is that, as
you're talking about these things that challenge the U.S., and you talk about U.S. having a strong hand, which, of course, it does historically, I
think people around the world are concerned that the U.S. seems to be retreating, seems to be withdrawing from its traditional leadership of all
the really great liberal, used in the correct way, world order that it pioneered, and withdrawing from that leadership role.
And people don't like it. So, if the U.S. does withdraw, doesn't that leave the world with a China? And then, of course, as you said, China's image, Xi
Jinping cracking down more on political dissidents, cracking down on intellectual activity, cracking down on ethnicities, like the Uyghurs, I
mean, it's pretty dire.
No, you're -- this is the crucial point. If the United States, as you say, continues to withdraw from its presence in the world, its willingness to
stand up for human rights, its commitments to things like free speech and democracy, that creates a vacuum in international leadership.
And China is inclined to move in and fill that void. But it's not a fait accompli. It depends heavily, let's be blunt, on the future of American
I think a lot of people around the world have looked at what's happened in American politics over the last four years, and have wondered, what does
the United States still believe in, what are we committed to?
And this is an opportunity for the United States to decide whether it still believes in defending those values abroad.
OSNOS: But the Chinese government wants to move in, if it can.
OSNOS: And it's just not yet clear if the United States is prepared to.
AMANPOUR: But that's -- that's exactly the point, I mean, politics, yes, but you just described how, by and large, bipartisan -- bipartisan thought
and beliefs in the United States is, as you said, about China, and how to how to do it.
And it seems like this is just a series of American administrations who are not doing the job that you say have to be done, all the way back to George
W. Bush, who apparently was told when he came in office in 2000 that this was the biggest strategic threat.
And you outlined how the eye was taken totally off the ball after 9/11, and the Iraq War, as others have written, was a total, miraculous gift to the
I had an interesting conversation, for instance, with a European diplomat, who said: Look, we are some of your oldest friends in the world. And you
are coming to us now and you're asking us to join you in this long-range challenge against China's assertions of greater power, its attempts to
bring its values around the world. But it's very hard for us to join you on that when you are slapping tariffs on your European allies.
So that's an example of the kind of thing, if the United States wants to really mount a serious response and a challenge to China's strength in the
world, it needs to be thinking about how it does that with the strength of its -- of its partners and its allies.
And it hasn't been building those relationships over the last three years. In fact, it's been undermining them.
And that has been a feature of the Trump administration.
Evan Osnos, thank you so much. It is fascinating. And it's really good to be reminded that there is this huge story out there, despite what's going
on in other parts of the world.
Thank you so much.
OSNOS: My pleasure.
AMANPOUR: And now, despite being blocked in China, Facebook is still making billions in ad sales in the country, a testimony to the clout of the
social media giant.
But is Facebook too powerful? It's a question that is often asked. A growing number of critics think so, including Chris Hughes, who was one of
the company's own co-founders. He left Facebook in 2007 to join Barack Obama's campaign.
And he's now leading the fight against corporate monopolies, setting him up on a collision course with the company he helped to build.
And he told our Hari Sreenivasan how this fight is ultimately about accountability and saving the very foundations of our democracies.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Chris, you back several different initiatives, one that's going after monopolies, one
that's doing experiments and learning about models of guaranteed income.
You have written in support of a wealth tax. Are all of these different things, are they trying to tackle a larger problem?
CHRIS HUGHES, CO-FOUNDER, FACEBOOK: Yes, we have a belief that the economy has been structured purposefully over the past 30, 40 years to create
momentous gains for the 1 percent and for corporations, and make it more difficult for everyday people to make ends meet.
We see in the data median wages are flat. Productivity is stalled. Entrepreneurship, maybe counterintuitively for some, is actually at -- is
near an all-time low.
And so the economy, just on the merits, isn't working. And I think most Americans get that. And that's why we're living in a moment where there's
big calls for structural change.
SREENIVASAN: You have set up a fund to fight monopolies. Tell us a little bit about that and what the intent is.
HUGHES: So, at the Economic Security Project, which is the group that I co-run, we have a $10 million fund to invest in organizations that are
taking on concentrated corporate power in whatever form, in tech, but also in other sectors.
And it's our observation that, right now, there are so many individuals. Some of them are organizers and activists. Some are academics and
journalists. Some are artists and storytellers.
There's so many people who are saying, hey, wait a second. Our economy is tilted in the wrong direction. Corporations have too much power. And this
isn't just a fluke. This has happened because we haven't had active anti- monopoly policies in a long time.
And so our fund is there to provide seed capital to these individuals to be able to either begin new work or double down on work that's already been
happening to take on that concentrated corporate power.
So, an example is, a group like the Institute for Local Self-Reliance is helping give voice to a lot of the small business owners across the country
who have a harder time making ends meet and taking on the big corporate titans.
So, a lot of those individuals, those voices aren't heard a lot in the media or in state capitals or on Capitol Hill.
And then there are still others, like the Athena coalition, which is organizing against Amazon. We have a long list that we're...
SREENIVASAN: If you're organizing against Amazon, even if you put in this $10 million fund, and if you're -- if you're planting these seeds, you're
taking on corporations that are worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
HUGHES: Yes, absolutely.
And that's -- that seems like a...
HUGHES: It's small, compared to what they're going to spend.
And it's -- I mean, it's our contention, though, that they may have the money, but we, as a movement, have increasing power.
SREENIVASAN: So, what makes a monopoly unhealthy or dangerous?
HUGHES: So, monopolies are problems for both economic and political reasons.
We can take the economic ones first. Look at Amazon. Amazon is right now in a place where it dominates e-commerce and much of commerce in the American
economy. And it not only sells stuff directly as a company. It creates a platform for thousands of other sellers to come on Amazon and say, oh, OK,
I'm going to use Amazon's infrastructure to sell my product, whether it's a diaper, a book, or something that's handmade.
As the platform, Amazon has all of the data about what's being sold, when, how, to whom, and at what price. And it uses that data to then structure
its own first-party decisions about -- about what to produce and what to sell.
So it just tilts the playing field to favor the incumbent.
And then there's the political problems. The fewer companies you have, the more power they have and the more that their -- their voice is heard in the
halls of government, and the more that they're able to shape policy on their behalf.
And so what we have seen, even now, or particularly now, is the growth of this power. And good institutions, like the Department of Justice and the
FTC, have, in some cases, taken a step back and not taken on their regulatory duties as a result of this -- of this pronounced power.
SREENIVASAN: But what's the difference between Amazon and, say, a Walmart, before Amazon, where they had a tremendous amount of information, and they
knew my buying habits, perhaps?
Maybe it wasn't in the online space, but they were a giant company. And what their promise seems to be to consumers is, we will give you the
cheapest product possible -- or, I should say, the best price, right?
HUGHES: Well, to be clear, I don't think there's anything wrong with prices going down. And, in some cases, as companies grow larger, they --
the prices can go down temporarily.
But a recent study that just came out a few weeks ago showed that the collection of big monopolies in the United States economy is costing the
average American about $5,000 a year that they wouldn't otherwise have to pay.
SREENIVASAN: How so?
HUGHES: So, you can take mobile telephony as an example.
In the United States, we only have a few major carriers. In other places in the world, they have even more. The competition in the marketplace brings
down the prices, so that you can pay less on a month-to-month basis.
It's the same thing for cable service, same thing for pharmaceuticals. The average household pays over $1,000 in pharmaceuticals each year. And they
use their monopoly power to protect those profits.
So it adds up across these different parts of the economy. But, again, prices are not just the only problem. You also see a decrease in quality.
Facebook is a good example of this. Facebook is technically a free product for most people to use. But because Facebook has gotten so big, all of
these privacy scandals that keep happening seem to be because there's no other -- there's no other real social network to compete.
So, prices go up, quality goes down, and the corporations have an outsized voice in the policy-making process.
SREENIVASAN: Do you think that companies have more power than government does now?
HUGHES: It depends on the sector and it depends on the context.
In some cases, they -- in some cases, they do, and others not. I mean, the power of Facebook is a good example over political speech
Right now, Mark Zuckerberg -- and really just Mark -- is making really formative, important decisions about verification of ads on Facebook.
SREENIVASAN: Whether or not they're going to verify a political ad, right?
HUGHES: Exactly, whether or not the -- Facebook is going to be responsible for verifying a political ad.
SREENIVASAN: And his position is: No, everybody should be able to say whatever they want, and it is an informed public. They can make up their
own minds. We, Facebook, are not going to stand in the way and say that this is true and this is not true.
HUGHES: His -- his position is that, that we shouldn't hold Facebook to the same standards that we hold network television or any of these other
companies to, and, whereas others may have a basic standard of decency to ensure that ads are not lying, not propagating outright lies, Facebook is
going to have none of it, and is not going to take on this responsibility.
That has a huge impact on the political and civic discourse in our -- not just in our country, but in other countries as well. And that kind of power
is problematic because it is unaccountable.
The board at Facebook is really just an advisory board, because of the way Mark has structured the company. And, until recently, we haven't seen a lot
of regulatory action from the FTC or DOJ or -- or government.
And so we have one corporate executive in California who's making really important decisions for our national and civil discourse. And we can and
should debate whether that's the right decision or the wrong decision, but I think that the point that it teaches us is that -- that Mark Zuckerberg
and Facebook has too much power.
And the role of our government is to identify when that power is being abused and to check it.
SREENIVASAN: Just to remind some of our audience, you wrote an op-ed this past year.
And in it -- I'm just going to read a little excerpt of it -- it says: "Mark's influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the
private sector or in government. He controls three core communications platforms, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, that billions of people use
every day. Facebook's board works more like an advisory committee than an overseer, because Mark controls around 60 percent of voting shares."
You, along with a couple of professors from NYU and Columbia, went down this summer and had conversations with both the FTC and the DOJ about
Facebook. What did you tell them?
HUGHES: You know, we talked to them about the same things that I wrote about in the article, that Facebook has specifically pursued a policy of
acquiring its competitors in order to lock down the social networking marketplace.
There are some competitors out there, like Snapchat or Twitter, but their size is really a rounding error. I mean, Facebook's revenue this year will
be $50 billion. Snap's last year was one.
I mean, these companies, they exist, but they're -- they're specks compared to Facebook's size. And so, just as I called for in the piece...
HUGHES: ... I do you think that Facebook should be broken up.
I think that it should -- that WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook should be separate companies, each with their own CEO, each competing against one
And I think, at the same time, we also need to think about, what are rules for the road for social networking and other tech companies that can ensure
that users are protected even in a more competitive environment?
So, these are things like privacy protections, interoperability, data portability, some kind of framework for how we're going to deal with these
questions of political speech, et cetera.
SREENIVASAN: Do you think -- there are some reports now that the FTC might be considering injunctions against Facebook in the coming year.
Kind of explain, in layman's terms, what does that mean and what is it about?
HUGHES: They're saying that they're seriously considering telling Facebook: Hold up. We need to take a closer look.
That's the basic idea, is that Facebook has been working over the past year to effectively combine the back end frameworks that power Facebook with
Instagram and WhatsApp and make them into one single framework.
The idea of a preliminary injunction would be to say, pause. Let's talk about how these companies work. Let's -- let's assess whether or not the
mergers were incorrectly approved by the FTC.
And, by the way, it's not just the FTC. Every branch of government that could be investigating Facebook and some of these other tech companies
right now is standing up to do so. So, it's the FTC. It's the Department of Justice. It's the House Antitrust Subcommittee in the House of
And it's 47 of the states' attorneys general all across the country. I mean, and just by the math right there, you see, we have -- we have got a
Republican administration, and the FTC and DOJ are part of -- are part of the executive branch. And about half of those attorneys general are also
So this is -- there's a bipartisan consensus that we need more oversight here. And I think it's overdue.
SREENIVASAN: Look, I could see these companies coming back and saying, listen, we have literally billions of happy customers. What's the problem?
Yes, there's political ads, and there's political interference. This is taking up a huge amount of mindshare, but, on a daily basis, Facebook can
say, I have got a couple of billion humans that are using our products and services, relatively happy with it.
Amazon can say, I am half all of e-commerce in America. Most people are pretty happy with their boxes showing up in two hours or two days.
HUGHES: Yes, I think that -- well, it depends on -- it depends on the public opinion research. There's plenty of people who aren't very happy
with Facebook in particular these days.
HUGHES: Amazon is a more popular company. And we could go from company to company.
And I think that the point is not to pick on any particular one company just because people don't like it.
HUGHES: Like, that's not the problem.
The problem is to identify when companies -- or the challenge is to identify when companies have become problematic, when they have become too
big and have used that power in ways that decrease quality or increase prices.
Then that's when -- or decrease wages. That's when government should step in.
SREENIVASAN: In Facebook's case, Mark Zuckerberg's response has always been, listen, breaking up the company isn't going to solve the problem.
You know, these large companies are the only ones that actually have the ability to tackle the problems at scale. Facebook is the only one that can
hire thousands of content moderators and keep ad libraries and all this other stuff going.
So, even if you said, OK, WhatsApp is a separate company, and Instagram is a separate company, and Facebook Messenger is part of a separate company,
you're not going to fix it.
HUGHES: Yes, I mean, what we're talking about, even in a scenario where the WhatsApp and Instagram acquisitions are unwound, is still three very
large companies, not the size of today's, but with billions of dollars of revenue and significant resources both to police their platforms and to
ensure that their users are protected.
And it's my view and the view of a lot of economists that Facebook broken up into three would create more competition and, in the long term, probably
more -- more profits for investors.
HUGHES: I mean, this is what you see in the case of AT&T after its structural separation , or the case of Standard Oil, is that it turns out
competition leads towards economic growth, like, so what we all feel intuitively.
SREENIVASAN: Are you concerned, heading into the 2020 election, that it'll be just a repeat of the 2016 elections in terms of social platforms being
manipulated in the process?
HUGHES: I am. I am concerned about it.
SREENIVASAN: Do you think we have done enough to safeguard ourselves?
I mean, I know you're not at Facebook. You left quite some time ago, but...
HUGHES: I don't think so.
I think -- I think there's a lot more that can be done. I think one of the most obvious things is, I do think that Facebook has a responsibility to
not allow outright lies in political advertising.
HUGHES: I have said this, and many other people have said this.
I think Facebook in particular has a responsibility to be even more aggressive in deactivating fake accounts, because we know that the fake
accounts are a big way that folks trying to manipulate these elections are spurring the content along.
And I think there are other things that they could do that would be helpful as well. I think you could charge political advertisers the same rates for
their ads, regardless of whether or not the ads go viral.
I mean, this seems like a very technical point, but just to illustrate it, if you look at the 2016 election, Trump was paying one-16th of what Hillary
Clinton's campaign was -- was paying for their ads, because the way that the Facebook ad platform is structured is, if you pay for an ad that is
provocative, and people want to share it, and it goes viral, it's cheaper on a per-impression basis than it is otherwise.
And then, finally, I also think that they should be thinking about how to ensure that, putting the ads aside, the political content on the platform
that is reaching big, large audiences is -- is reviewed by some humans to ensure that it's not an outright lie or misleading.
HUGHES: I mean, the -- a few months ago with Nancy Pelosi, that was -- that was a faked video where it seemed like she was -- she was drunk, even
though she doesn't drink alcohol, is a perfect example.
HUGHES: And Facebook not only allowed that to stay on the platform, but, because of the way they design the News Feed algorithm, it gets distributed
very far and wide.
And that -- that's a choice that they're making.
SREENIVASAN: You guys were roommates. You co-founded this thing. You were friends.
What motivates him?
HUGHES: I think, these days, it's -- these days, I think he and the Facebook leadership, I mean, they're -- I think they're trying to do the
I -- I do disagree with a lot of the decisions that they have made.
SREENIVASAN: How have you seen...
HUGHES: But I think it's not -- I think it's important to -- for me to say that -- because I have been friends with Mark and other people in the
Facebook leadership for a long time, that this is not personal for me. I don't have a vendetta out for him or for Facebook.
In general, I think that I do have a responsibility, as a co-founder of the company, to speak up, and specifically when the problems that we're talking
about here are so big and are so significant, I mean, when you're talking about not just political discourse in our country, but next year's election
and the economic power of one of the largest companies in the country and in the world.
And, at a certain point, that responsibility is something that I feel has, you know, caused me to need to speak out.
SREENIVASAN: Chris Hughes, thanks so much for your time.
HUGHES: Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: And, finally, for this intern, long gone are the days of making tea and running errands.
Seventeen-year-old Wolf Cukier outshone his superiors when he discovered a planet 1,300 light years away during his placement with NASA.
Meet TOI 1338 b, verified today as a new world, and discovered whilst the teenager was analyzing the brightness of stars just three days into that
internship. The planet is 6.9 times larger than Earth, orbits two suns, and is only the 13th of its kind.
Cukier is now a senior in high school and on the lookout for more planets. It's safe to say that he has a bright future.
And that's it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast, and across our social media.
Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.