tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg April 2, 2015 10:00pm-11:01pm EDT
>> from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." charlie: evan osnos is here. he covers politics and foreign affairs for the new yorker and is the author of "age of ambition." he won the national book award last year. he has been writing about the country for the last decade. this latest report is a cover story on china's president, xi jinping. it is called "china's new authoritarian." do you have access to him? evan: not yet.
i have a request in, but he has not said yes. charlie: how much is known about him in terms of the public press in china? and how much of an effort is there to define him? evan: there is a mythology about him, a robust and fixed story about him. he is the son of a revolutionary, his father was one of the founding heroes of communist china. the son suffered during the cultural revolution. that in itself is not wrong. that basic skeleton of a story is correct but the details of how those experiences impacted him, how they shaped his thinking, those turn out to be essentially important to understanding who he is. charlie: draw that portrait for
me. evan: he has seen the best and worst of the communist experience. he grew up at the absolute top of the hierarchy. the entire world the president grew up in was the communist party. everything he knows, a successful product. he knew all of his friends in school, their fathers were also senior leaders. he went to the chinese equivalent of andover. they had privileges and a sense of responsibility, which is that you grow up to inherit the revolution. they were told that day after day. when you grow up, you inherit the revolution. the cultural revolution was this time of enormous chaos. students attacked their teachers, children attacked parents.
all of a sudden, these privileges he had from being associated with these families became a liability. he was sent to a village, a rough place to live. he lived in a cave and shoveled manure and when you dig into what he has said over the years, it is a bit more approachable. he realized, i'm not cut out for this. he was a city kid. he gets to this village, has no idea how to carry weight or farm and he was rated on a scale of labor, a six out of 10. it was lower than the level that women got on their labor score. he tried to get out of it. he fled to beijing and said he wants to get back to his old
life and he was arrested and sent back. at that point, he was reborn essentially. he realized he would be a communist party hero. it was a bitterly difficult time. his father was in jail, his mother was forced to do hard labor. xi jinping made a judgment which was that if he would survive in china, he had to be even more red than the reddest person he could see. that eventually led to the man we see today, a true partisan of the communist party. charlie: he seems to have learned about power. evan: he absorbed deeply lessons about power. everything he saw from the time he was a child said that powerful people will determine the lives of hundreds of millions of people. this is not a system in which
people play an equal role. there are powerful people and everybody else. from an early point, he got the sense he was destined to be a powerful person. charlie: the interesting thing is he is not showing tendencies of someone who is a courageous bold leader. he seems to be someone who keeps his head down, someone who is careful, someone who turns the water to a boiling point and pours more cold water before it begins to boil. he understood how to be careful. evan: he figured out there are these competing factions within the communist party. if he wanted to get anywhere, he had to avoid alienating any of them. what he would do is something that would satisfy the liberals. for instance, he would support a private car company by telling the taxi company they needed to buy these private cars and
recite the classic, socialist incantations. in a way, it worked for him. his strategy is to hide his strength and bide his time. he did that until he was in a position where there was no one as powerful as he is. charlie: when do you think he knew he wanted to be the top guy? evan: in his early 20's. he had been a midling student. his education ended at fifth grade. he had 10 years off and went to college. he did not have a conventional childhood. when he came back from the village, he had been named the party secretary. he had the experience. he had grown up around people in
charge. he started to talk about himself in those terms. charlie: did he have a mentor? evan: his father. xi jinping has said his father used to talk about the revolution constantly, so much he said they used to get calluses on their ears. he grew up in an environment in which the communist party was the most refined machine for the betterment of humanity. he was insulated from a lot of the things that were going wrong. he did not need to know about the fact he had produced a famine that killed more people than world war i. he is a sophisticated person. but he has always seen the system from one angle. evan: he became a sophisticated person with a fifth grade education. evan: he is a self-taught man. he got into a great school in beijing because of his political and ideological merit, not his test scores.
he talks about how much he reads. people who know him well say his reading is traditional, he reads a lot of classics. he talks about the old socialist texts. for me, one of the most important discoveries along this process was realizing he has less foreign experience than deng xiaoping. at the end of the cultural revolution, they went to the u.s. and got their phd's and made a fortune. he explicitly chose not to do that. he said i will survive and succeed by staying in this system. charlie: he thought that was the best thing to do. it was the best way to get where
he wanted to go. evan: it was the way he would get to the top. i think his father played a role in this decision. in traditional chinese families, one son will go into business and the other will go into politics and it is a congenial relationship. he had one son in business and a daughter in business and xi jinping, that was the one who would continue to move up. his father created some opportunities for him and he continued to climb the ranks. charlie: his wife? evan: his wife is fascinating. he was a celebrity in china. she was an opera star, folksinger. it was his second marriage. he married soon after college.
they divorced. charlie: he is a politician through and through. evan: he has some hobbies. he likes to play soccer. he is a political animal completely. when he met his celebrity wife he did not know much about her. she was one of the most famous people in china but he was not familiar with her songs. he was 33, she in her mid 20's. she thought he was kind of doughty. she discovered his mind was so completely occupied by political questions and they got married a year after they met and lived apart for many years. the official story is they are together all of the time.
for the next 15 years, they weren't together very often. she lived in beijing. charlie: did he have to do anything ruthless to get to power? evan: you don't get to the top of the system by being gentle. charlie: what did he do? evan: i will give you an example of a story i did not put in the article. at a certain point 10 years ago, he and a rival were trying to get ahead and the rival had done things to stop his allies from being appointed. the moment of opportunity arrived, which is there was a typhoon that killed a lot of people in the neighboring province where this rival was in charge. a journalist was deployed to this province and he wrote a story that questioned the death toll. that is very damaging in the
chinese political system. it shows he is hiding something. the rival said this is slander he has been abused. his career really never recovered. xi jinping continued to rise. he would have known deng xiaoping? they certainly knew each other. his father was the head of a province in the south and was a key experience. his father was a firebrand. his father believed in economic reform. that put him close. there was a key moment in the 1980's when the old guard was pushing back against economic
reformers and xi jinping's father stepped forward and said what you are doing is wrong. don't purge the people who are trying to make meaningful progress. they lost that fight. he more or less lived out his career in comfortable obscurity. their relationship is complicated. his father was essential. in many ways, his father was a lifelong devotee of the communist party. he spent 16 years in one form of confinement or another because of the political chaos. charlie: he is more likely to do whatever he can to protect the party. evan: exactly. there is nothing in his life that suggests he would do something that departs from where the communist party comes from.
the question becomes if the survival of the party depends on major economic reform, in order to achieve that reform, you have to take steps that open society. at the moment, he has indicated he believes he can go ahead with economic reform, creating more competition against enterprises without political openness. that is his explicit belief. i think there are a lot of people who question that is possible. is it possible to have a fully formed, sophisticated, open economy without concessions to the globalized world? right at the time he was needed to run the country, he met another official. he said this man might be the
mandela of china. he meant this is someone who has been through all of the political turbulence of the 60's and 70's and has moved beyond it. that was a fascinating insight because he was, on some level, right. xi jinping was not incapacitated by having spent all of these years in the countryside. the difference is we might have expected that xi jinping would have ruled by trying to build a consensus across as many groups as possible. that is what the analogy was suggesting. what we have seen is that he is consolidating the people he finds most politically reliable. it means there are losers in the system. charlie: he has consolidated power at the least. evan: very effectively. these days, some people say he is the most powerful leader since mao.
he has accumulated a lot of official titles. he oversees the internet, the courts, the secret police. what we don't know is if there was a moment he was challenged by someone in the military. is he as strong as he appears? that is an open question. charlie: he has more power than his predecessor. evan: much more. his predecessor's nickname was the woman with bound feet because he was kept off balance. charlie: which raises a question about the corruption. some people believe it is to root out rivals. evan: someone described it to me this way -- they said to go into a room and there are 10 people there and you know eight of them have corruption, you go after
the first four who are your political opponents. we see a determined effort to bring corruption to a manageable level in a way where it is not being done by predictable, legal principles. he says these people are coming out. for the moment, -- charlie: these people are at the top of the security apparatus. evan: he took down the most senior figure in the security world. a move i think surprised a lot of us that he was able to do. charlie: it scared a lot of others. evan: when you see someone of that stature go down, it tells you no one is protected. a great chinese novelist told me what is happening now is the unwritten rules, the essential principles that govern the last 30 years, have been broken. xi jinping has broken these rules.
charlie: his vision. evan: he believes china is no longer a superpower in waiting. he believes it is time for china to be on the level of the u.s. one of the things he says is it is time for the u.s. to have a new type of great power relations. the obama administration has basically said, we will not do that. what he means by that is treated -- treat us as an equal don't regard our interest as secondary to yours. if we say this territory in the south china sea belongs to us, take that seriously. the u.s. is not prepared to do that. i think at the moment, the obama administration who i talked to
they are surprised at how fast he has sought to reshape the relationship. charlie: what is the threat to him? evan: this is not one you read about very often. the threat is his bureaucracy is actually capable of foiling what he is trying to do. his anticorruption campaign has picked up the chessboard and tipped it over and said all of the rules you thought obtained -- pertained no longer do. the bureaucracy, all the way to the way they do things, how you make decisions, that has been thrown in the air. they have responded by slowing down. you hear this from many people in china.
everyone is afraid. they don't want to sign off on something because they don't want to do anything that makes them appear corrupt. they have -- charlie: are they party members? evan: in many cases but sometimes not. this is an ancient pattern in chinese politics. emperors have tried to challenge the bureaucracy. the question for xi jinping is he pushing too fast too far? at the moment, he is managing. charlie: you put a story like this together. they don't like to be written about as we have found. you are going out, talking to people at the highest level. you say you are doing a piece on xi jinping. evan: it has been very hard. harder than other stories.
people who would ordinarily be confident and feel they have the confidence to talk on the record, they say i cannot be talking about this subject because we don't know what he is capable of, meaning if i own a business, i don't know if the business will be constrained by regulatory pressure or taken away if i say something critical. it is a hard subject to write about. it was harder than i thought it would be. charlie: you mention one of the chinese scholars. are scholars different? evan: there are a lot of people who helped shape your impressions. you hear a lot of stories about how he conducts business and you use that information. you talk to other people about it, confirm or deny it.
there are people who feel that their role is to be an independent intellectual. for some of the people i quote their own personal credibility rests on seeing things they believe are independent. this is a hard time to be a chinese writer or intellectual. harder than any other time in 10 years. charlie: vladimir putin and xi jinping. evan: a fascinating relationship. he has met with vladimir putin more than anyone else. it seems to be mutual. xi jinping has gotten the better side of this relationship. vladimir putin has become increasingly isolated. for instance, when vladimir putin was looking around the world for friends, one of the people who returned his call was
xi jinping. charlie: he was admiring what he did with crimea. evan: resources, it consolidated political improvement at home. his enthusiasm for this cooled. it became a complicated operation. it caused as much blowback for vladimir putin. charlie: with barack obama? evan: that relationship is occasionally candid, which is significant. they can actually have a conversation. they have tried. charlie: neither speaks the other language. evan: xi jinping is a different
kind of operator. while you talk to him, he often doesn't have notes. everyone comes away with the same impression which is that he means what he says. their relationship remains pretty remote because they have very different ways of doing things. charlie: different lives. evan: if you think about how profoundly different their experiences are. the differences in the ways they were shaped. obama came through the system. xi jinping really knows his system only. they are making an effort. an encouraging thing is with all of this energy about how these countries will deal with each other, they are talking. they are very blunt about how serious the stakes are.
if they don't get it right, the rise of a superpower as always been disruptive. they are able to have that conversation. one person told me they are able to have these brutally frank exchanges and continue on. charlie: you hope there are not misconceptions about each other. evan: that was the real risk. the u.s. did not have any sense of what china's intentions were. charlie: and they thought we were trying to contain them. evan: there is a credible view that xi jinping to this date is -- does not fundamentally trust the u.s. because he believes what he looks at what we did in the arab world, that we had friends and arab leaders and when they begin to wobble, it
takes three days before we are cheering on the little guy. xi jinping believes we would not be there to back him up in a crisis and he might not be wrong. that creates an underlying level of anxiety. charlie: evan osnos reports on a place he knows better than most. thank you. evan: thank you. charlie: stay with us. back in a moment. fareed zakaria is here. we talk to him about a liberal education. ♪
charlie: fareed zakaria is here. he has a weekly column for the washington post. he has written five books. his latest is called “in defense of a liberal education." he argues the university is much more than a vocational school. education is more than pursuit of a vocation. i am pleased to have him back at this table. welcome. i totally believe in the idea. when people come to me and say what should i major in, i say the most important thing you can do is have a sense of the world and all that has contributed to the society we live in and learn how to express yourself. learn a command of the language.
fareed: that is the distinctly american contribution to higher education. in the 19th century, the germans perfected the apprenticeship program. even britain had these technical training programs. a student was told, why don't you choose what profession you will be for your life. in america, the economy changes too much and people don't want to be stuck, they want to move. so we will give you a broad, general education, the exposure you need and you will learn on your first job what you need but on your second job, you'll learn a different set of things. it has been said, it is not meant to train you for your first job, it is meant to train you for your sixth job. charlie: the idea of a liberal education has been around for a while.
why do you feel the need to remind us? evan: we are living through anxious economic times. you see people say we need to have a sure thing. a college education is expensive. people say, i want to focus on science, technology, engineering. that way, i know my child will have a job. president obama said if people were to choose a manufacturing trade, they would make more money than in art history. on the republican side governors are defunding the liberal arts and humanities in several states. there is a real move to say we don't need more artists and anthropologists. it really misses what is distinctive about the american system. science and technology is important.
but so is a general education. charlie: you came from india and went to very good schools. did you come because you wanted a liberal education and because the way of educating in india is to teach skills? fareed: it is part of what attracted me. the 70's were a tough time in india. i was always fascinated by america. part of my journey was a fascination with america. i watched i love lucy and fell in love with that. charlie: american culture. fareed: my version of the american dream was dallas. we used to watch the bootleg copies. charlie: i lived there at the time. fareed: i thought, this is
america, right? part of it was that i got a good, rigorous education. i streamed into the sciences. the rich kids streamed into commerce. the smart kids streamed to science, and the girls did humanities. that is how it worked. i started hearing more and more about american colleges and realized you could do physics and poetry. you could study film, follow your passion. i got very interested and i applied and got a scholarship to yale. my first year, i signed up for physics, computer science, math. i take one class in international relations. i always knew i loved it but i never thought i could make something of it, use it as a profession. yale made me realize if you
follow your passion, something will work out. charlie: i wanted to be a doctor. doctors were admired in the community and i did not know any journalists. the way to do that was major in physics and chemistry and go on to medical school. somewhere, i fell in love with humanities and the theory of civilization. i went to law school. fareed: i think part of what has changed between then and now is in those days, a lot of people from the humanities who were kind of famous and much admired -- writers were seen as larger-than-life figures. today, that happens in the stem world. zuckerberg and bezos.
that is part of the reason why english majors are dropping by 75% in 30 years. history majors have dropped. it is unfortunate. in a way, humanities is not cool anymore. charlie: but engineering is cool. fareed: if you're passionate about it, you should really do it. data shows all of this drumbeat about jobs and skills is not luring people into the sciences. not everybody has the aptitude for it. what it is doing is making people anxiously forsake english, history, philosophy and do instead preprofessional majors like business studies and communication arts. people do it because it sounds like it is preprofessional but they will better off following their passion. someone who has a great training
in english or history is just as good as someone in a business major. charlie: you have to choose in the end. do you really have to choose today? you can study science and math. vocational schools is one thing, junior colleges another. at the university, you can major and minor and get both educations. fareed: what is happening now increasingly, colleges are trying figure out a way to incorporate those things. i was talking to someone at stanford and they said they are trying to explore the idea behind steve jobs' famous line where he said it is an apple's dna, a technology merit to the liberal arts that makes our hearts sing. why don't we come up with majors where that makes sense? music and math, engineering and design. creativity takes place when you
bring two disciplines together. charlie: the design school at stanford, they bring people with different disciplines to focus on one problem. they look at a way to create a design solution to something. it is the way you look at education and the process. it is a mixture of people with different talents, which brings out the best result. fareed: that will probably be our secret to success. if america is going to stay vibrant economically, it is not fundamentally because we can make cheaper computer chips. those are areas they will do better at. they had a lot more engineers and they can pay them less. we will do better at figuring
out the way that human beings use technology. how do computers interact with people? mark zuckerberg was a psychology major at stanford before he dropped out. he realized before facebook, everyone was anonymous on the internet. he wanted to create a platform where your identity exists so you can create a greater sense of trust and a powerful platform. as an advertiser, it is a gold mine. charlie: let me turn to india. tell me about india today and tell me what difference moody makes today. fareed: india has all of the opportunities and challenges of a democracy. china has succeeded because of its government.
india does not invest in the government, it panders to people. it has been a second-fastest growing large economy in the world for the last 15 years. there is potential because of the demographics, because an old socialist economy has been unshackled. what moody is finding is it is harder to change. the states, the upper house of parliament is not in his control. one can be moderately optimistic but in the long run, you have to be impressed by the bottom-up power of india. it does not have the great infrastructure, but it has great companies. it is because the human capital is very strong and ultimately, you have to figure that will make a big difference. charlie: do believe that we will
-- that it will outpace china? fareed: a lot of my indian friends think that. china's economy is four times the size of india's. charlie: at 7.4. fareed: india is 2 trillion. it is still growing. you do the math. the lines don't cross. it would take a catastrophe in china. charlie: it is a democracy. down the road, it may have more potential. you are saying notwithstanding the math is against it. fareed: at this point, you would have to have miracles take place. being the second-fastest growing large economy in the world is not bad. remember the amount of economic activity unleashing when you're talking about 1.2 billion people growing at 6.5%. charlie: you create a middle
charlie: let me go to the middle east today and the negotiations going on now with respect to iran and weaponization. fareed: suppose you don't do a deal with iran. these sanctions are tougher than the old ones but in 2005, we turned down a deal with the iranians. they offered to cap at 164 centrifuges. the bush administration said no, the french said no, the british. iran went from 164 to 20,000. it is an oil-rich country. it makes $50 billion a year. that is a problem if you don't do the deal. the other option is a major
military attack. we're talking about weeks it would take to destroy their capability. charlie: the question is can they destroy it or delay it. fareed: if you play through that scenario, unify the country behind a regime. any regime that gets bombed by foreigners, the government tends to get popular. charlie: people become nationalistic. fareed: the sanctions regime breaks down. the chinese and russians will not keep with the sanctions. within two years, they are able to rebuild the program. they have 2000 scientists working on this. the deal you are looking for is a deal that says we will have the most intrusive monitoring process we have ever had and we are going to try to create as
long a lead time to go from being a civilian power to a military nuclear power. it means very, very low levels of enriched uranium stockpiled. if they exist, they are put under seals or diluted or shipped. the more centrifuges you have, the quicker you can enrich uranium. those are the key things. technically, it is possible to get a deal. the problem is there are hard lines on both sides. charlie: the president, do you think he looks at this as his foreign-policy legacy? fareed: i think he believes this would be the most significant, strategic move he could take because it has the possibility of stabilizing or adding some stability to the middle east currently the most unstable part of the world. the only part of the world significantly unstable.
in latin america, asia, things are going well. if you could bring a border to this -- why would that be possible because the iranians want a greater degree of integration into the world. charlie: all iranians? fareed: younger iranians, the reformers. there are clearly groups within iran that are very anti-american and if they win -- charlie: does the administration believe somehow they have a ten or would europeans like it to be a 25 -- they are a 10. when they get to the 10 year time when it ends, which is what the israelis fear, the government will be a vastly different government and will not want nuclear weapons? fareed: i am a skeptic on that issue.
we should not believe too much into this wishful thinking. this regime has been powerfully enduring. it has accommodated itself to public sentiments often. it has these escape valves. they have various mechanisms that allow for some debate. there is also the reality of a country where religious authority is respected. remember the green movement, when those leaders were campaigning, they criticized the nuclear program from the right. the nuclear program is a nationalistic program. charlie: moving to the general middle east and the notion of this president and how he feels
and where he has come, you now see the rise of isis, this push against them. you see in respect to yemen, the saudis are now making airstrikes. egyptians are saying they will send troops. yesterday, there was talk of building a middle eastern quick strike force. the president doesn't seem to want to send american boots on the ground other than advisers or special forces. what is your take on what this country should be doing now about isis and the spread, whether it is islamic terrorism or whatever brand of terrorism it is around the world? fareed: you have to ask why this is happening. what has happened in this territory is that the regimes are fractured, civil society
does not exist, the countries don't exist. you have this great churning. they're figuring out if they can live together. it is a bloody process something similar to what europe went throughout various points when they had intermingled populations and for the most part in europe, the solution was ethnic cleansing. after world war ii, 6 million germans were ethnically cleansed. that is how europe solved this problem. it is not unlikely something similar is happening in the middle east. in iraq, it is essentially three countries. in the midst of that, i think for the u.s. to believe that by a few airstrikes or sending special forces we will stabilize this is crazy. the president is correct in saying we have to keep our eye on the ball.
what is the threat to american national interest? he tried to figure out what you need to do about it. isis potentially is a threat to american national interests. all of those gruesome videos they're trying to draw the u.s. in because they want to be the world's great islamic terrorist organization. we should recognize we should not play their game. charlie: is the president right on arguing for a choice on language and how we describe it? fareed: i think he is being a politician. this is islamic extremism. he is trying to say he will not give them that mantle, allow them to wrap themselves with the mantle of islam. i interviewed the king of jordan and asked him if he agreed with the president.
he said absolutely. don't call them islamic. he knows that come out of the muslim communities but what he is saying is let's delegitimize them. i think it is a political game. charlie: you are seeing for a long time we have asked for muslim leaders to stand out. it is beginning to happen. it is gathering some storm. fareed: it is beginning to happen. what is important -- charlie: even the president of iran.
fareed: you also see the saudis come for militarily. i think it important for them to get involved. if united states leaps forward and says they will take care of this problem -- people free ride on the u.s. everyone says, great, we don't have to deal with the awkwardness of explaining to our people why we are doing this. they need to explain to the people why this is their struggle. charlie: tell me what we should do about assad. fareed: when hitler invaded the soviet union, winston churchill said if hitler invaded hell, i would gladly make an alliance with the devil. there is no greater threat to the u.s. than the rise of isis.
the logical corollary of that is you will have to focus on that and not on unseating the assad government. charlie: why did kerry have to walk back? was it because of the pressure from sunni nations? fareed: i think it may be that. it is actually mostly that they got pressure from washington because the president had announced a policy of regime change, which is what i always thought was a bad idea. the president, if he says assad should not be president, he has to have a policy that does something about it. people notice there is not a policy back up to that. charlie: they get into problems with reformers all around the world.
fareed: it is a tough one. charlie: many people argued he should have supported the reformers much more at the time. fareed: the challenge in syria is have a third rate minority regime in the middle east. the first one was lebanon, the christians. you had a mass uprising and they finally sorted it out. then, iraq. a 10 year civil war there still sorting out. syria is the most difficult because the minorities are the smallest. they are only 14% of the population at most and they rule over this vast group of people. yet, the christians in syria are still somewhat supportive of the regime because they worry that a sunni majority government will come in.
the stakes are very high. people who say why doesn't everybody go to geneva and negotiate? if they lose, they will be ethnically cleansed or massacred so they are fighting for their lives. i think the whole idea that we can somehow stay from the outside, a few airstrikes and it will be done, i don't think so. this will sort itself out on the battlefield. charlie: makes it interesting for people who do what we do doesn't it? fareed: the world has been more fascinating, fast-moving this last year than almost any time i can remember. charlie: thank you. great to see you. his book is called “in defense of a liberal education." fareed zakaria. thank you for joining us. see you next time. ♪