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U.S.-China Talks Get Off to Confrontational Start; U.S.-Russia Tensions Escalate Amid Diplomatic Spat; Many E.U. Countries to Resume AstraZeneca Vaccinations; Brazil Records 2nd Highest Death Count; South Korea to Revise COVID Test Rules for Foreign Workers; Growing Number of Migrants Trying to Cross Into U.S.; Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) is Interviewed about Capitol Attack, GOP Hypocrisy. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired March 19, 2021 - 00:00   ET


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Mike Holmes. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, coming to you live from CNN's world headquarters here in Atlanta.


And ahead this hour, a testy start to high-level talks between the U.S. and China, the two sides sparring during their first face-to-face meeting in the Biden ministration.

An escalating war of words also between the U.S. and Russia after Vladimir Putin fires back at Joe Biden's suggestion that he's a killer.

And countries rush to resume coronavirus vaccinations after AstraZeneca is declared safe amid concerns the damage has been done.

The first high-level talks between China and the U.S. under the Biden administration are off to a pretty confrontational start. China's top diplomat warned the U.S. to stay out of Beijing's internal affairs, including Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken, says he will raise not only those issues but also China's treatment of Uyghur Muslims.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We'll also discuss our deep concerns with actions by China, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyberattacks on the United States, economic coercion toward our allies. Each of these actions threaten the rule-based order that maintains global stability. That's why they're not nearly internal matters and why we feel an obligation to raise these issues here today.


HOLMES: Now reporters were being ushered out of the room after each side's opening statements, but Blinken asked them to stay, so he could expand on his remarks, and that prompted an angry response from the Chinese delegation.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I entered this room, I should have reminded the U.S. side of paying attention to its time in our respective opening remarks.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Chinese side felt compelled to make this speech because of the tone of the U.S. side.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Isn't this the intention of the United States, judging for the way that you have made your opening remarks, that it wants to speak to China in a condescending way from a position of strength.


HOLMES: CNN's Kristie Lu Stout, following developments, joins me now live from Hong Kong.

So polite and cordial start from both sides just getting pretty extraordinary, really. What do you -- what do you make of it? Jockeying in public or bad side?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT: It's not a good sign. Look, this is a very important meeting. This is the very first face- to-face meeting between the Biden ministration and senior Chinese officials.

And in these opening remarks of a two-day strategic dialog taking place right now in Alaska, just descended into this heated confrontation that you saw -- just said, it was all caught on camera.

But this, I would argue, was expected, because a confrontational tone was already set in the run-up to this meeting. It was set during those high-level meetings between the United States and its allies in the region, South Korea and Japan, in which U.S. officials use -- slammed China, taking a very hardline stance slamming its destabilizing policies in the region.

A confrontational tone was also said last week. And Michael, you and I discussed the quad meeting that took place during the U.S., India, you know, Japan, and Australia, four nations with very frayed relations with China.

And that confrontational tone was also set when the U.S. State Department announced those sanctions on 24 Chinese officials for undermining democracy here in Hong Kong.

So all of this, this set the stage already before this meeting. But we have to watch to find out what's going to come out of it. HOLMES: And to that point, I mean, so many issues with strained relationships. I mean, is there any sort of confidence that there could be much in the way of substantive agreement, or is this really just sort of taking stock of each other period?


STOUT: Yes, they're kind of feeling each other out. It doesn't look like a reset. And also, from what we heard earlier today, it doesn't look like a recent with a polite tone, even. The U.S. and China, they remain locked in this sort of toxic frenemy relationship, unprecedented friction between these two powerful nations on a variety of fronts that we've discussed before.

Technology and trade, Taiwan, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, the coercion, economic coercion of allies, South China Sea sovereignty disputes. The list goes on.

Early on, the Biden administration did signal it would carry on with the tough-on-China policies championed by the Trump administration, especially in regards to trade and Xinjiang.

But there's a key difference, and the key differences is at least both sides are talking. You know, last month, we had that phone call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden. One month later, there is this very high-level strategic dialog that had that rocky start on camera, those fireworks that we all witnessed there. But it's two days of talks on U.S. soil in Alaska taking place right now. And there are areas of cooperation, like pandemic response, as well as climate change, Michael.

HOLMES: Yes, indeed. We'll see whether it leads to anything. Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong, good to see you. Thank you very much.

Now, China's foreign ministry says the trials of two Canadian men accused of espionage have nothing to do with the U.S. meeting in Alaska. This is when Michael Spavor's hearing was scheduled to start a few hours ago. He and Michael Kovrig were detained back in December of 2018, just after Canada arrested a top Chinese executive in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition request.

China hasn't disclosed any evidence about the men. Kovrig's trial is scheduled to start Monday. The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has condemned their arrests as political.

Tensions rising between the U.S. and Russia as the Kremlin fires back at scathing comments from President Joe Biden, Mr. Putin now challenging him to hold online talks in the next few days, something the White House seems to be pouring cold water on already.

CNN's Matthew Chance with more on the deteriorating diplomatic relationship.



This is the moment U.S.-Russian ties, fraught by fresh allegations of election meddling and the poisoning of a key Russian opposition figure, plunged to a new low.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Do you think he's a killer?

BIDEN: Yes, I do.

CHANCE: With just a few words, President Biden signaled his intolerance of Russian misdeeds. And unlike his predecessor, who fawned over the Russian leader Vladimir Putin, a willingness to call out the Kremlin's strongman.

He looks relaxed, marking the seventh anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea. But Putin is clearly furious, facing the promise of yet more painful U.S. sanctions in the weeks ahead. He's recalling Russia's ambassador from Washington for consultations, first time that's happened in decades, and issuing a snide response to the killer insult.

"I wish him well and good health, and I mean that without any joking or irony," Putin said of Biden by video conference.

Some cast it as a veiled threat from a leader who kills his critics. But it looks more like a wink to rampant speculation, Russian state TV alleging that Biden's mental health is faulty due to old age.

"Maybe he just forgot to take his pills," the state anchor jokes about the Biden remarks.

"It's age-related dementia," says another, "the triumph of political insanity."

Putin also trolled Biden by citing an old Russian children's joke that reflects the killer tag. "You are what you call others," he says. "It takes one to know one, in other words."

The playground retort sums up the worst diplomatic spat between these nuclear rivals in years.

It was a falling out waiting to happen. When Biden first met Putin as U.S. vice president in 2011, he says he told him he didn't think he had a soul and warned the Russian leader not to run for another Kremlin term.

Ten years on, with fewer than 100 days in office, President Biden has toughened his Russian stance even more.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


HOLMES: Europe's Medicines Agency has confirmed what top health experts have been saying all week, and that is that the Oxford- AstraZeneca vaccine is, indeed, safe. [00:10:03]

The regulator announced the results of its emergency review on Thursday, saying it did not find that the vaccine causes blood clots. That's after reports of clotting in a small number of vaccinated people causing at least 16 European countries to hit pause on the vaccine and further delay the region's already sluggish vaccination campaign.


EMER COOKE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, EUROPEAN MEDICINES AGENCY: The committee has come to a clear scientific conclusion, this is a safe and effective vaccine. Its benefits in protecting people from COVID- 19, with the associated risks of death and hospitalization, outweigh the possible risks. The committee also concluded that the vaccine is not associated with an increase in the overall risk of thromboembolic events or blood clots.


HOLMES: Many of the countries that suspended the vaccine say they are now ready to use it again, but they're coming under growing scrutiny. It's feared that what some called knee-jerk reactions might have set back overall vaccination efforts.

However, Germany insists its precautions were warranted.


JENSE SPAHN, GERMAN HEALTH MINISTER: The EMA's analysis confirms our handling of the situation. It was right to suspend AstraZeneca's vaccinations as a precautionary measure, until the striking accumulation of the very rare thrombosis cases was analyzed.


HOLMES: CNN's Scott McLean now reports on the countries ready to once again administer AstraZeneca.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some European countries are already beginning to restart the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine after a brief pause over concerns about blood clots in a very small number of cases.

The European Medicines Agency, the E.U. vaccine regulator, announced the results of the urgent scientific review about the benefits of the vaccine still far outweigh the risks.

The review found that the rate of blood clots was less than the number that would be expected to occur normally. It also found that there were no quality issues or problems with any specific batch of the vaccine. However, it also said that it could not completely rule out a possible

link between the vaccine and two very rare types of blood clots. So it's now recommending that the shots come with warnings to both patients and doctors for awareness but not to deter anyone from getting the shot.

COOKE: If it was from me, I would -- I would be vaccinated tomorrow, but I want to know that, if anything happened to me after vaccination, what I should do about it. And that's what we're -- we're saying today.

MCLEAN: Almost twenty million doses of the vaccine have been given across the U.K. and the E.U., and there have been barely two dozen cases of those two very rare types of blood clots combined.

A review by the British vaccines regulator also found blood clots were no more frequent in vaccinated people. The prime minister, Boris Johnson, is due to get his vaccine on Friday. And he has made sure to point out that he's getting the AstraZeneca shot.

Scott McLean, CNN, London.


HOLMES: Joining me now from La Jolla, California, is Dr. Eric Topol. He's a cardiologist and professor of molecular medicine with Scripps Research.

Doctor, good to see you again. First of all, with AstraZeneca, how important is this decision in the overall battle against COVID-19?

DR. ERIC TOPOL, CARDIOLOGIST: Well, good to be with you, Michael. It is a very important decision, because this is the one vaccine that is the largest influence in the world. So we really want this to succeed, and it's good that the European authorities, regulators have given it a go. It's unfortunate that we've had to go through this, because it does undermine some trust. But it's a very positive step.

HOLMES: How much of the issue, the doubts, from your perspective, have been fact-based, as opposed to, you know, emotions and fear? And to that point, is there -- is there a need for more transparency on these incidents, more data?

TOPOL: Well, Michael you really hit on it. The transparency problem is a big one.

We've not seen the actual details of these various cases. Nd you wouldn't be worried about things like deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism.

But we know now, whether it's in Norway, in Germany, in other places that there are very unusual, even though exceedingly rare, unusual cases, some of them fatal in young people, particularly in women. And they're also related to very low platelet counts and this syndrome that we call ITP. So that has been noted to be related to the vaccines, not just the COVID vaccine but others. And it's of concern, because we've not seen this data. And it's also important, not just for this vaccine, but if it crops up with the other vaccines that are -- that are ongoing.


So I hope, I wish that will see all that.

HOLMES: You touched on this, and let's revisit. What are the risks of damage done by this whole incident in terms of vaccine hesitancy? I mean, confidence in the vaccines, in general.

I was reading 47 percent of Donald Trump voters, for example, say they're not going to get one, and there was a survey of the journal "Nature Medicine," showing many European countries, the number of those hesitant was also high.

Right. So what you're referring to is, you know, there are vaccines that have a very high efficacy, like 95 percent, and none of this issue with respect to a concerning safety problem.

So, there is a hesitancy issue, but this doesn't help. And particularly since it has such a broad influence around the world. We are going to see the U.S. trial for AstraZeneca in just a couple of weeks, Michael, and that will help because, if that has a signal of high efficacy, and we see no further problems of these clotting events, that will help bolster it.

But certainly, short term, there's the hidden factors of a paper today from Denmark showing, indeed, there's been a detriment of confidence and trust in this vaccine.

HOLMES: Yes. And again, to take that step further, what -- what is the impact of sizeable numbers of people not getting the vaccine when you look at the trajectory of the virus?

TOPOL: Right. Well, here again, now we are in Europe with the beginning of a first surge in many countries. And this is not a good time for there to be hesitancy and resistance. It's in as many people, as quickly as we can to get vaccinated and especially because of this particular B.1.1.7, the U.K. strain that's causing lots of trouble around the world right now.

HOLMES: Yes. And you mentioned that the European countries warning the beginning of a third wave, but also, we've seen, I mean, just a terrifyingly horrible situation in Brazil, where it has been mismanaged from the top down. And we've seen the results of that.

When we talk about variants, what's happening in Brazil in terms of rampant spread? That is exactly would variants want, mutations want. Right?

TOPOL: Exactly. So there is a different variant there, but it shares a lot of the features with the South African one. It's called P.1, and it has this immune evasion. And that's why we saw in Brazil, where there have been already a very high rate of infections. People are getting reinfections and that there was this now very rapid rise up.

So South America, Brazil is leading, but many of the countries in South America are also showing this new wave. And much of that is related to a variant of concern with -- It's different than the U.K. variant. The one in the U.K. is just highly transmissible. And now there are two studies showing that it has higher lethality.

The variants in Brazil and what we've seen in South Africa, their different -- their main issue is that they can't, at least partially, evade our remain response.

Fortunately, it hasn't evaded our vaccine management. So they're hoping Brazil, and throughout South America, will be that they really rev up the vaccination, which has been slow in most countries, except for in Chile.

HOLMES: Dr. Eric Topol, as always, thank you so much.

TOPOL: Thanks very much, Michael.

HOLMES: Now, Paris and more than a dozen other regions across France, will soon begin a month-long partial lockdown as the nation faces up its first wave of this virus.

Starting on Friday at midnight, there will be nonessential businesses that close, and people must stay within 10 kilometers of their home. However, schools will remain open, as these measures are less restrictive than previous lockdowns.


JEAN CASTEX, FRENCH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): In these 16 regions, new massive measures to restrain the epidemic will be in place starting Friday night at midnight, and for four weeks. It's a third path that we're taking, a path that should allow us to restrain, without locking ourselves up.


HOLMES: France reported 35,000 new infections on Thursday. Cases are up more than 20 percent from the last week. Hospitalizations, too, are rising.

The prime minister says across the country, one person is admitted to the ICU with COVID every four minutes.

The World Health Organization says it is concerned about new COVID flare-ups in Central Europe, the Baltics, and the Balkans. Well now, all of these areas we're going to show you here in dark orange are seeing significant rises in cases compared to last week with Bosnia and Herzegovina in red, suffering the most dramatic rise in new infections.


HANS KLUGE, REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR EUROPE, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: The danger, however, is still clear and present. The current situation is most acute in parts of the region that were successful in controlling disease in the first six months of 2020. And this is in central Europe, the Balkans and the Baltic states, where case incidents, hospitalizations, and deaths, are now among the highest in the world.


HOLMES: Hans Kluge went on to say that it is too soon for countries to be easing restrictions, and vaccinations are not a substitute for public health measures.

When we come back here on the program, desperation in Brazil. Hospitals running out of ICU beds and critical supplies, people dying in record numbers. And the president says he is the victim.

Plus, South Korea to revise certain rules on COVID testing after authorities were called out for xenophobia. We'll have a live report, from Seoul, coming up next.


HOLMES: In Brazil, coronavirus devastating healthcare systems, and city leaders are begging for federal help. A group of mayors representing 61 percent of the country say they desperately need medical supplies.

In Sao Paulo, a man has died while waiting for an open ICU bed.

The country has been seeing a rapid rise in cases and deaths. But Brazil's president, still in denial. Here's Matt Rivers.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: On a day where Brazil recorded its second most deaths ever in a single day from coronavirus. More than 2,700 deaths reported on Thursday.

The president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, found a way to make himself the victim in all of this. Speaking on Thursday he said, quote, "Here it became a war against the president. It seems that people only die of COVID."

He then went on to question in ICUs across the country on many people were dying of COVID, versus how many were dying from other illnesses? Let us be the ones to tell you that these ICUs across this country are not collapsing because of other illnesses.

State after state after state, said that they are in the situation they're in because of COVID-19, and this latest wave. In fact, the latest data that CNN has shows that 16 of 26 Brazilian states, the ICU capacity in those states is at 90 percent or higher. That means that, if the healthcare systems in those states haven't collapsed already, they are in imminent risk of doing so.

Matt Rivers, CNN, Rio de Janeiro. (END VIDEOTAPE)


HOLMES: The Biden administration is finalizing plans to send millions of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines to Canada and to Mexico. The White House press secretary says they'll send 2.5 million doses to Mexico and 1.5 million to Canada.

It will be the first time the U.S. has shared vaccines directly with another country. But there are still some details to iron out.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are assessing how we can loan doses. It's not -- we are -- That is our aim. It is not fully finalized yet, but that is our aim, and what we're working toward to Canada and Mexico. This is a complex process, and our team is working with the companies to move it forward.


HOLMES: Now, one administration official says an option for lending could be a swap agreement with Mexico and Canada, promising to share excess vaccines with the U.S. in the future.

In just the past few minutes, by the way, Mexico says it has reached a deal with the U.S. The details have not been disclosed as of right now.

Parts of South Korea will be revising mandatory COVID testing rules for foreign workers. This after diplomatic missions and commerce organizations complained to authorities accusing them of xenophobia.

Let's discuss this further with CNN's Paula Hancocks in Seoul. So lots of diplomatic offense was taken.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. This was a couple of days ago, when Seoul City decided that all foreign workers in the capital had to be tested for COVID.

Now, the basis for this, according to Seoul City, was that there had been some cluster infections and outbreaks in one of the neighboring provinces, Gyeonggi. This is where there are a number of migrant workers, and they said that the confirmation rate of COVID went from 2.2 percent last year to 6.3 percent. And they were trying to curtail that.

So within that province, where there's more than 400,000 foreigners registered, although not all working, they said that everybody across the board who was not Korean had to be tested.

Now, many migrants support groups said that that was not the correct way to do it, and it risks stigmatization.

It's worth also pointing out that the vulnerable conditions that many of these migrant workers have to live in in cramped conditions. But now, of course, this was moved to the capital. And this is where the embassies are based. This is where big business is based, and there is significant pushback against Seoul City.

We saw a video posted by the British ambassador, Simon Smith, on Twitter, where he said it -- the British embassy does, quote, "consider these measures are not fair, they are not proportionate. Nor are they likely to be effective."

Hearing from the Australian embassy, as well, saying that they've expressed their concerns. Many chambers of commerce, including the American chambers -- Chamber of Commerce, pushing back on this and telling their members to sit tight until they can get some clarification.

But up until now, we did hear from Seoul City this morning. It does appear as though that pushing ahead with this, saying that it's not a discriminatory measure. They just had to be careful of high risk infection -- Michael.

HOLMES: All right. Paula, thank you so much. Paula Hancocks there in Seoul.

Time for a quick break. When we come back from the freezing temperatures of Anchorage, Alaska, things got pretty heated during diplomatic talks between the U.S. and China. How much is real, how much just for show? We'll discuss when we come back.



HOLMES: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company.

Now the U.S. Border Patrol says it has encountered 32 what it calls, large groups of migrants across -- along the border with Mexico since October. And CNN has learned more than 4,500 children seeking entry into the U.S. are now in custody.

CNN's Rosa Flores joined one group near the border for the last few miles of their dangerous journey.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the South Texas trails used by thousands of migrants, like these unaccompanied teenagers from Guatemala, to make their way into the U.S.

And sometimes they encounter Deputy Constable Dan Broyles as he patrols the border with Mexico.

Sixteen-year-old Kevin gets emotional as he shares that he's been traveling for a month, sometimes without food or water. His father waits for him in Pennsylvania.

Seventeen-year-old Dalin's (ph) voice breaks as he explains his grandma--


FLORES: -- who takes care of him stayed behind in his gang-ridden neighborhood. Border authorities in the Rio Grande Valley are encountering about 1,000 migrants a day, according to a federal source, many of them unaccompanied minors.

Evidence mothers and children are on the trail litter the landscape: diapers, children's clothing and masks.

(on camera): Documents left behind by some of the migrants tell part of their story. In this case, it looks like a 34-year-old mom from Honduras and her 2-year-old son, they both tested for COVID before leaving their country and tested negative.

So what do you look for when you patrol?

DEPUTY CONSTABLE DAN BROYLES: Well, what I'm looking for is splashes of color that don't belong in the brush.

FLORES (voice-over): He also looks down the paths that lead to the river for signs of life.

BROYLES: This is an indication sign.

FLORES: And he shows us the arrows posted by border authorities.

BROYLES: As you can see, that's a homeland security bag.

FLORES: And this one that reads, "asilo," or asylum.


FLORES (on camera): Walk to the bridge, 2 kilometers.

BROYLES: Two kilometers, yes.

FLORES (voice-over): What bridge? The bridge near the Rio Grande where immigration processing begins.

This is as close as our cameras can get. Border Patrol is not granting media access, but with permission from deputy constables who patrol alongside federal authorities.

BROYLES: Precinct 3 constable's office is in charge of approximately 22 miles of international border.

FLORES: We've got our eyes and ears on the ground.

(on camera): Did you come alone?

FLORES (voice-over): This teen says he paid a smuggler after a recent hurricane flooded his single mom's home.

(on camera): How much did you pay? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

FLORES: Or $2,500.

(on camera): How did you get the money?




FLORES (voice-over): Broyle's job ends here, when he sends the teens off to Border Patrol.

For the teens, it's just a another step in an already uncertain journey.

(on camera): Along the banks of the Rio Grande, the land mass that you see behind me is Mexico. The man in charge of this portion of the border is Precinct 3 Constable Larry Gallardo.

He tells me that there's a constant dual challenge here. Downriver, the smuggling of people. Upriver, the smuggling of drugs. And the Border Patrol chief tweeting there is no end in sight.

Rosa Flores, CNN, along the U.S. Mexico border.


HOLMES: Now talks between the U.S. and China, as we reported earlier, are off to a rough start in Anchorage, Alaska.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he will raise concerns about Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Muslim Uyghurs. China's top diplomat criticizing the U.S. for its struggling democracy and poor treatment of minorities.

Frank Ching is a China political commentator and columnist. He joins me now from Hong Kong. And it's good to see you, Frank.

Some strong words from both sides ahead of this meeting, let's be frank. Battle lines drawn, as it were. I mean, Antony Blinken said, you know, without rules-based order, there would be a much more violent world. What did you make of the exchange?



I think this is a very weird exchange. Because both sides said before the talks that they were not going to change their position. And it seemed like there was no point having these talks, if each side was just going to go in and state it's position and then leave. And it seemed like from the beginning, the U.S. side -- well, first of

all, they announced sanctions against 24 senior Chinese officials. Just before the talks began, which naturally made a negative atmosphere.

And then, they agreed that each speaker would have two minutes, and the U.S. side adhered to this. And the Chinese speaker, Yang Jiechi went on for 16 minutes, so it seems like they were not adhering to the rules and that he was really addressing not the Americans or even the public, the media, but really speaking to his boss in Beijing, Xi Jinping, and showing his boss how tough a stand he was taking.

HOLMES: You know, it's -- it's not a -- it's not exactly an august start to all this and this sort of a reset if we can even call it that. I mean, how strong are the disagreements? How high are the hurdles between these two countries?

CHING: Well, they're very high. The U.S. said going in that they were going to talk about Taiwan, Xinjiang, Hong Kong. And the Chinese side said they will not talk about these issues, because these are Chinese internal affairs and the U.S. should keep its hands out.

And then, in his opening remarks, the Chinese leader said that the U.S. was invading other countries and slaughtering black people in the United States.

So it's really an atmosphere that is not conducive to making progress. And then when the press finally left, the U.S. side told the press, now we'll tell the Chinese in private what we have been saying in public. Now, how are you going to make any progress that way?

HOLMES: Yes. Yes, point taken. I mean, you know, you can argue that authoritarian systems are pretty good at showcasing their strengths and hiding or masking their weaknesses.

In terms of the to-and-fro between China and the U.S. going forward, what are China's vulnerabilities that the U.S. might exploit?

CHING: Well, I think what China wants out of this meeting is really an ongoing dialog to show that the U.S. and China have prepared their relationship to a certain extent, so they can talk to each other and exchange ideas.

And the U.S. going in had said this is not part of a dialog. There are no plans to have another meeting. This is a one-off meeting.

And I think that the Chinese more or less accepted this. Now, if there is any progress on any of these many, many issues they're talking about, including, say, Huawei, the tech war between China and the U.S.

If there's any progress on anything and they agree to meet a second time, then this would be a breakthrough, that this is not a one-off and that there will be further talks.

HOLMES: Yes. Finish your thought, yes. CHING: Yes. So I think that China really wants to have a better relationship with the U.S. But it doesn't want to be seen as being weak.

The U.S. also had said that it wants to deal with China from a position of strength. And Jake Sullivan, in particular, talked about the U.S. needing to strengthen itself domestically, including its economy, dealing with domestic issues like racism and also uniting its allies, talking to its allies before dealing with China.


CHING: So in this case the U.S. has talked with Japan and South Korea. They've talked with India, Australia. And so they have consulted allies before talking to China.

But China has told the U.S., you're not in a position of strength. We are not -- we are not weaker than you.

HOLMES: It's -- Yes, it's got to be an interesting dynamic going forward. Fascinating to watch it unfold.


Frank Ching in Hong Kong, got to leave it there. Thank you so much.

CHING: Thank you, Michael.

HOLMES: Now Amnesty International says there might be thousands of Uyghur families worldwide separated by China's crackdown in Xinjiang. Their new report says some parents who fled the region years ago are unable to reunite with their children, and many live in fear of returning to try.

China's denying accusations of human rights abuses and says Uyghur reeducation campaign is about fighting violent terrorism.

However, the author of this Amnesty report says, quote, "The Chinese governor wants to gain leverage over the Uyghur population residing abroad, so that they would be able to stop them from engaging in activism and speaking out to their families and relatives in Xinjiang.

And you can find more about Amnesty International's report and CNN's effort to track down some of the families at And we will have more exclusive reporting in the days ahead on this.

We'll be right back.


HOLMES: Mission accomplished. NASA has successfully completed a key engine test for its space launch system rocket. This was the eighth test, meant to make sure that the rocket can launch the Artemis mission, which will send astronauts to the moon in 2024.

NASA's acting administrator says the test was, quote, "an important milestone."

I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company. I'll be back in about 15 minutes with more of CNN NEWSROOM. WORLD SPORT coming up, next.