Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Top Myanmar General Vows To Uphold Democracy On "Day Of Shame"; U.S. Voter Suppression; Brazil's ICUs Overflow; Powerful Tornadoes Rip Southern U.S. States; Ship Blocking Suez Canal Has Economic Toll; U.S. Foreign Policy With China. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired March 27, 2021 - 04:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[04:00:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Robyn Curnow. And I want to get to our breaking news.

There's bloody representation in Myanmar. Reuters says security forces killed at least 16 pro-democracy protesters today alone. It comes hours after Myanmar's top general promised to uphold democracy and protect civilians. It's a promise that flies in the face of bloodshed we've been seeing for weeks now.

He spoke at the annual army day parade, which one activist is calling a day of shame. A human rights group in Myanmar says more than 300 democracy protesters have been killed since the coup last month.

Here are protesters with candles before sunrise. On Saturday, they're facing down a specific threat on state TV, that anyone who marches in dissent risks being shot in the head or back. I want to go straight to Ivan Watson. He's monitoring the events from Myanmar. He's in Hong Kong.

Hi, Ivan. Once again the situation is escalating in Myanmar.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's been another day of violence and one that a lot of people anticipated, where the military, throwing a party for itself, commemorating the foundation of the military, even as it holds the daughter of the founder of the Myanmar military, Aung Sung Suu Kyi, who was the leader of the elected government in detention, incommunicado in February after the first coup.

The military dictator made comments online that were televised at the parade, vowed there would be another round of elections, calling for democracy, denouncing the civilian government that he accused of corruption, said they were prosecuted for crimes.

Meanwhile, demonstrators wanting to show their opposition, out on the streets in neighborhoods, in cities and towns and the death toll is rising, we're hearing, all across the country, a very violent crackdown, adding to the estimates of more than 300 people killed since the February coup.

I've been speaking with one protester from a Yangon neighborhood. And he told me his neighborhood was able to protest peacefully, residents outside their homes this morning.

But when he toured the rest of the city, there was smoke from many tires set on fire by protesters all around the city and he was preparing for a subsequent second round of street protests in his neighborhood.

Meanwhile that same protest organizer telling me there are calls from within the protest movement for violent action, such as throwing Molotov cocktails at security forces. And some debate whether or not this is the right strategy to use.

All the more striking was the warning, issued on military state TV, that you alluded to, a warning that said people could be shot in the head or in the back if they go out on the streets. The military basically making no secret about the fact that it will use deadly force in its attempt to crush this nationwide uprising -- Robyn.

CURNOW: There certainly has been a deep sense of resilience from these protesters. It's cut across society.

What kind of support are they getting and how much longer do you think they can maintain this momentum in the face of this outright violence?

WATSON: It's a very difficult challenge. Add to the fact you have large sectors of the economy that are not working, not collecting paychecks. People are not going to work and that's frozen sectors of the economy.

But they also pay for that by not being able to collect their salaries, in many cases, with the banking sector frozen. I was on the phone with a protest leader last night at around 8:00 local time. I could hear banging in the background and I asked the protest leader, what is that?

[04:05:00]

WATSON: That was the nightly ritual of banging pots and pans in the different neighborhoods followed by people cheering in the night and repeating anti-coup slogans.

So this is a widespread movement and it is attracting support, at the very least, morally from at least 10 of the different ethnic militias that have fought against the military for decades in the past, who are in a kind of quasi cease-fire agreement with the military but are expressing support for the protest movement in the cities.

CNN caught up with one of the leaders in one of these ethnic militia. I have to inform the viewers, they control chunks of territory in the larger regions and continue to engage in clashes with the armed forces, Myanmar with at least 135 different ethnic groups. And one of the leaders spoke with CNN. Take a listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. AWD SERK, SHAN STATE ARMY COMMANDER (through translator): We will stand with the people. It means, if they are in trouble, they come to us seeking help and we will take care of them.

If the military continues to shoot and kill people, it means the junta will, have simply, transformed themselves into terrorists. They simply do not care about the people. We won't sit still and we will find every means to protect people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATSON: Those places, Robyn, are becoming places of sanctuary for protest leaders, former members of the ousted government, who are running to safety, running to the armed militia trying to escape the military -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Keep us up to date if there are any new developments.

U.S. President Joe Biden says the Justice Department is examining Georgia's sweeping new law that critics say will discourage minority voters. He slammed the state as "an atrocity," a blatant attack on the Constitution and Jim Crow in the 21st century.

Jim Crow, of course, refers to a legacy of harsh U.S. and state laws that forced segregation up until the 1960s.

The White House is raising serious concerns about the arrest of a Georgia lawmaker. She was hauled away outside the governor's office as he was signing the bill. The war on voters rights is fueled by former president Trump and his bogus claims of election fraud.

He also falsely claimed that the Capitol insurrectionists posed zero threat and "were hugging and kissing police."

Georgia might be the first of many states who might be changing their voting laws in response to Trump's Big Lie. Here's Jeff Zeleny with all of that -- Jeff.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BIDEN: It's an atrocity.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden saying the Justice Department is looking into a new Georgia law restricting voting rights, part of the still simmering Republican backlash from his defeat of Donald Trump.

BIDEN: If you want any indication that it has nothing to do with fairness, nothing to do with decency.

They passed a law saying you can't provide water for people standing in line while they are waiting to vote? ZELENY (voice-over): It's the latest real-world fallout from the so- called Big Lie, the unsubstantiated claims about widespread voter fraud the former president and many in his party are still peddling.

The nation's most sweeping overhaul of election laws so far is in Georgia, where a measure signed by Republican Governor Brian Kemp includes a provision making it a crime to bring food or water to people standing in line to vote.

It comes only months after Biden and two Democratic senators delivered historic victories in the state, which cost Republicans their Senate majority.

BIDEN: You don't need anything else to know that this is nothing but punitive, designed to keep people from voting.

ZELENY: In a statement, Biden going further, calling it "a blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience. It must end," he added. "We have a moral and constitutional obligation to act."

But the question is how and when. Across the country, Republican lawmakers in 43 states are considering legislation that would restrict voting access and make it more difficult to cast ballots. It's become one of the biggest pet projects for the GOP base.

SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): Our democracy is in a 911 emergency. And I'm not about to be stopped or stymied by debates about Senate rules.

ZELENY: Senator Raphael Warnock, one of the newly elected Democrats from Georgia, is talking about doing away with the Senate filibuster, which requires 60 votes on major legislation. He's among those urging Biden to intensify his push for a federal law to protect voting rights.

[04:10:00]

WARNOCK: This is democracy in reverse. It's un-American. It's anti- democratic.

ZELENY (voice-over): The president has vowed to do everything in his power to enact voting reforms in states, stripped away in 2013, when the Supreme Court invalidated key provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

Arriving in Delaware, where he's spending the weekend at home, Biden noted that, right now, there are not enough votes in the Senate, even among Democrats, to change the filibuster rules.

BIDEN: Right now, that doesn't exist. That doesn't exist. So, look, I -- the only thing I have been relatively good at in my long career in the Senate is figuring out when to move and when not to move. You got to have the votes.

ZELENY (voice-over): On voting laws, all roads lead back to Trump, who is not only still lying about the election outcome, but also making false claims about the January 6 attack on the Capitol, trying to rewrite history. TRUMP: Some of them went in and they're hugging and kissing the police and the guards. You know, they had great relationships.

ZELENY (voice-over): But that's not true. Just ask police officer Michael Fanone, who fought ardent Trump supporters for hours that day, trying to protect the Capitol.

MICHAEL FANONE, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT: And then some guy started getting a hold of my gun. And they were screaming out, "Kill him with his own gun."

ZELENY (voice-over): Biden making clear that he, too, is still thinking often about Trump, blaming him for problems at the border and for laying the groundwork to make it far more difficult for those who didn't vote for him to cast ballots.

BIDEN: My predecessor, oh, God, I miss him.

ZELENY: Now it's clear he has former president Trump on his mind at some point, using him as a foil on some issues.

One thing is clear, the Big Lie that former president Trump repeated again and again is taking hold in some of the state legislatures. That's what's driving the change in voting laws. Of course, many will end up in legal challenges.

For now, at least, there are political challenges, how much capital is President Biden willing to put behind federal voting reform acts. He wants to focus on infrastructure and rebuilding the economy. But clearly this is an issue that will impact him and, of course, elections to come -- Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: Thanks, Jeff, for that.

Atlanta's mayor says she doesn't understand how the same Republicans who certified the November election as free and fair can suddenly claim the system needs fixing. She spoke to CNN earlier. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), ATLANTA, GA: Anything the former president is celebrating is usually not a good thing for the voters in the state of Georgia. It's exhausting.

Given the record turnout that we had in this state, given that our current governor was the secretary of state before he became the governor, the now secretary of state, touted the integrity of the election and here we are.

It's unfortunate but Ambassador Young reminded some of us recently that, when he ran for Congress in 1974, there was one day of voting and there was still a 74 percent African American turnout in the race. His reminder was, whatever the obstacles may be, we still have to turn

out in record numbers and I know we'll continue to do that across the state.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: There's much more ahead here at CNN, including a look inside some of Brazil's struggling hospitals driven on the brink of collapse by the coronavirus pandemic. We have that story. That's next.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:15:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

CURNOW: More Americans are rolling up their sleeves and getting COVID vaccinations, the number administered jumped by almost 3.4 million on Friday. That's a whopping amount, a new daily record according to the White House.

The Centers for Disease Control says more than 48 million in the U.S. are fully vaccinated. Meantime, analysis says there could be enough vaccine for 75 percent of the global population by the end of the year.

Many more vaccines would certainly help Brazil, where the medical system is certainly straining under the weight of a pandemic. Brazil set a new record for daily COVID deaths on Friday for a second day in a row.

Intensive care units are overstretched. In many areas, there aren't enough of the kinds of medical supplies needed to treat COVID and health care workers are forced to make horrific choices. Here's Matt Rivers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the system collapses, it starts here. Paramedics rushing to respond to seemingly unending cries for help. This time, it's a grandmother short of breath, another COVID case limping toward a hospital system that cannot handle more patients.

RIVERS: So it's easy to spot ambulances like this one racing all over the city going on call after call after call and in some cases, going to multiple hospitals before they actually find one that can admit the patients that they have in the back.

RIVERS (voice-over): Here, a dozen ambulances with patients await outside a Sao Paulo hospital, hoping a spot opens up inside. These days though, getting inside might not help.

The person who gave CNN this footage from another Sao Paulo hospital told us, it feels like a war zone. The rampant viral spread its own mass casualty event and, across the country, a lack of medical supplies is crippling the ability to care for patients.

In this footage given to us from Brazil's federal district a nurse says this oxygen tube is leaking, taped to a wall, they're strung up all over the hospital this way.

[04:20:00]

RIVERS (voice-over): In some places, draped between windows. It's the only way to get the limited oxygen they have from its source to the patient.

Overflowing rooms are the norm in Brazil now. This Sao Paulo hospital was designated this week as a COVID only facility but it's plain to see, as we walk through, that it's filled beyond capacity, unable to accept any new patients.

RIVERS: This facility is designed for 16 patients; there's roughly double that number inside there right now.

RIVERS (voice-over): Crowded ICUs across the country have created impossible choices. This nurse, who fears he could lose his job for speaking with us, says one older patient this week was the victim of a zero-sum game. His life for another.

RIVERS: Did you even think that was possible?

RIVERS (voice-over): The nurse says the patient wasn't getting better, so we extubated him and gave his ventilator to a younger patient with a better chance to live.

And for those watching this all up close, like paramedic Luis Eduardo Pimentel (ph) the health care collapse is unbelievably painful.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he says, crying. "There is this cycle, taking a patient to the hospital, then a hearse arriving to get another body. It just hurts too much."

This video given to CNN from inside a city morgue shows coffins, bodies inside waiting to be cremated. There are so many, demand is roughly triple what they can handle in a single day. So the coffins are stacked, waiting their turn.

So many people have died in Sao Paulo recently, this week, there's been burials every few minutes, enough that they can't get them all done during the day. Cemeteries now busy, even at night.

RIVERS: And consider this. Just over the past two weeks or so, of all the coronavirus that's recorded around the world, roughly a quarter of them have come just from here in Brazil alone.

And I've spoken to several epidemiologists who feel we're not at the peak in this country especially when you consider hundreds of thousands of new coronavirus cases have been recorded here in Brazil over the last several days -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Sao Paulo, Brazil. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: Great reporting there from Matt and his team, thanks.

So Germany is now classifying all of France as high risk, as it struggles to keep its third coronavirus wave under control there. Now starting on Sunday, travelers from France will have to quarantine upon arrival in Germany and have a negative test that is less than 48 hours old.

And a large part of France is already under lockdown but now in those areas, classrooms will have to shut down if there's even one positive case. I want to go straight to our Jim Bittermann. He joins us live.

Hi, what can you tell us?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Well, Robyn, the new restrictions Germany has imposed says this: it has nothing to do with politics. It's basically numbers. The France numbers are up to 200 infections per 100,000 population. The Germans say that is their threshold.

They're looking at rising cases. They have 119 cases per 100,000 people. And that is what they say is something that's alarming them. And they're going to clamp down on the cross border traffic with France in order to stem that rise in Germany.

There's still some debate about what's going to happen for cross border communities because there's quite a few people on a daily basis who cross France and Germany to go to work.

There's truck traffic, all sorts of questions, that still have to be ironed out. But starting tomorrow, all of France -- and they had closed the overseas territories. Any travel from those territories will have to go through this 10-day quarantine when they arrive in Germany and they have to arrive with a COVID test that's less than 48 hours old.

Now on the second story you mentioned, the schools, this is another thing that's alarming the French because the rates have been going up. The numbers have been going up and the French have struggled at all costs to keep their schools open.

The problem is that one of those costs is the fact that students are now becoming infected. In the last week, 21,000 students alone have been infected by the COVID virus and it's something that's worrying to the extent that they're now going to clamp down in the 19 departments of France.

They're going to clamp down and close classrooms if even one student becomes infected. Already more than 3,000 classes have been closed across France because of COVID infection. It's another worrying problem that authorities here have before them -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Jim Bittermann outside Paris. Thanks for that update.

BITTERMANN: Yes.

[04:25:00]

CURNOW: Just ahead on CNN, powerful, powerful tornadoes that left devastation across the southern U.S. We'll have a firsthand look at all the damage coming up.

And Mother Nature may not be done yet, as another storm threat may be headed to the same region. We'll have a live report. That's also up next.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

CURNOW: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. Thanks for joining me. I'm Robyn Curnow. It's 28 minutes past the hour.

We're getting word that the atrocities in the streets of Myanmar are much worse than previously reported. Reuters says at least 50 pro- democracy protesters have been gunned down in the last few hours. Reuters reports 13 people were killed in Mandalay.

It's happening on the same day the military's senior general promised to restore democracy and, quote, "protect civilians." We'll have more in a live report from Hong Kong in about 30 minutes' time.

And dramatic and heartbreaking pictures of damage are coming in after a deadly storm tore through the southern U.S. on late Thursday, early Friday morning. At least five people were killed in Alabama and one in Georgia.

I want to show you these pictures from Newnan, Georgia, south of Atlanta, where it's believed an EF-4 tornado swept through the dark of the night. The National Weather Service say almost 2 dozen tornadoes formed in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia.

[04:30:00]

(WEATHER REPORT)

CURNOW: Time is of the essence as crews work to free a massive container ship clogging the Suez Canal. Coming up, the next hours may be the most crucial to get the ship floated. We have that story also.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:35:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING) CURNOW: It has been four days and crews are still working to free this

massive container ship blocking the Suez Canal. Now hundreds of ships are deciding whether to reroute or wait it out. One salvage company says the ship is stuck rock solid.

The U.S. Navy is sending dredging experts to help. But with the traffic at a standstill, the economic impact is mounting. The Suez Canal handles about $10 billion worth of cargo every day. Ben Wedeman is standing by in Cairo.

All eyes are on whether or not the ship is going to be budged in the next few days.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we did hear, Robyn, the owner of this ship saying they were hoping Saturday the ship would be floated after the dredging. What we can see is the effort has been frantic but so far fruitless.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WEDEMAN (voice-over): The race is on to dislodge the giant container ship wedged across the Suez Canal since Tuesday. The canal authority estimates up to 20,000 cubic meters of sand and mud need to be removed to refloat to ship.

As dredging work continues, a fleet of tugboats stand by, hoping high tide will provide the vital window in which to free the free the carrier. Almost as long as the Empire State Building is tall, the Ever Given got stuck during a sandstorm in 40 knot winds. Blocking a crucial supply chain, that waves around 12 percent of global trade through the quickest maritime link between Asia and Europe.

SAL MERCOGLIANO, MARITIME HISTORIAN: The potential for this is to magnify. If this goes on for a long period of time, worst-case scenario, this goes on for a month to clear the vessel, that's going to cause a massive disruption in the economy.

We saw what happened with a global recession almost that took place in early COVID when all of a sudden, we were not able to move goods in a clear efficient way.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Roughly 30 percent of all global container volume transits daily through the 120 mile waterway carrying vital fuel and cargo.

Incoming ships will now be made to anchor in waiting areas in the Red Sea and Mediterranean.

[04:40:00]

WEDEMAN (voice-over): More than 200 vessels are backed up in either direction with more than 100 en route over the weekend. Their only alternative is to divert around the southern tip of Africa, adding about a week to the journey.

Japanese shipping companies who own the Ever Given told CNN they're bracing for lawsuits but insist their priority right now is refloating the ship, possibly as early as Saturday.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WEDEMAN: And, of course, they say time is money and when it comes to this crisis in the Suez, we're talking about $400 million of cargo that normally passes through the Suez Canal on an hourly basis. We're now on the fifth day of this stoppage. We're talking about $50 billion worth of goods that have not gotten to their destinations -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Thanks so much, Ben Wedeman there live in Cairo. No doubt we'll be speaking to you a bit over the weekend. Thanks for the update.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: Joining me now from Denmark is the CEO of SeaIntelligence Consulting, Lars Jensen.

Thanks so much for joining us.

LARS JENSEN, CEO, SEAINTELLIGENCE CONSULTING: Good to see you.

CURNOW: Despite the promise of help from the Americans, how likely do you think that this will end soon?

JENSEN: I would say that, with every day that passes right now, the problem is that that simply means we're in a situation that could take quite a while. I'm sure they're doing everything they can. But if this was easy to get off and refloat, it would have happened already.

CURNOW: And what's stuck in these ships?

I mean everything from cars to beer to livestock.

What does that mean?

(CROSSTALK)

JENSEN: It means that, from a consumer perspective, some of the goods you might have been waiting for, it might be delayed if it's arriving by sea; in some cases maybe a week, maybe two weeks. That's basically the extent of it.

Perhaps the counterintuitive aspect of this is, if you're a consumer, you won't notice any immediate difference. You won't see shelves go dry at the supermarkets. You won't see any lack of goods as such. This is where the counterintuitive part comes in.

The consumer will immediately notice absolutely nothing. But if you're working in companies that import or export, you will have your work cut out for you to try to make ends meet.

Will this lead to a rise in consumer prices?

It seems not because what many don't realize is the supply chain has been under a severe strain for the last year. Consumer prices have basically not budged at all.

CURNOW: You've described that, when this opens up, it's going to be like a bottle of ketchup being opened.

Why did you describe it like that?

JENSEN: This is, especially seen from a European perspective, in Europe, about 50,000 containers are delivered every single day from Asia into the main ports. That comes in a steady stream.

Now that steady stream has been interrupted and is piling up south of the Suez Canal. So when the canal opens, you get this whole pileup delivered into the European ports at the same time. There's clearly a limit how much cargo the ports can take off the ships in a given day and, just as importantly, how much cargo you can move and truck and rail out of the ports on any given day.

So the problem with this is it's at a very high risk. Once the canal opens, within a week, we'll have congestion problems, especially in Europe.

CURNOW: How do you think this is going to be solved?

Obviously, you've got folks trying to dredge. There's a variety of clever people with machinery trying to make a difference there.

Do you think these containers need to be removed?

That could take weeks to lighten the ship.

What is the best way to make this happen speedily?

JENSEN: From a practical perspective, it appears what they are doing is they're trying to dig the ship out from underneath, is the best possible option. Taking containers off is -- if you begin to do that, that's a sign you're looking at weeks, if not months, because, keep dimensions in check here, this is one of the largest ships in the world.

It's larger than a U.S. aircraft carrier. So simply beginning to pick containers off from the top is going to be a process that is extremely difficult to undertake.

CURNOW: Wind is being blamed and a variety of other reasons. It's still not clear exactly how this happened.

Is it because the ship is a monster, it's just too big?

JENSEN: No, I wouldn't say it's too big.

[04:45:00]

JENSEN: Ships of this size have been going through the Suez Canal for years without incident, almost for decades. We've had massive ships going through the Suez Canal, not container ships but other kinds of ships. No, this is routine. Wind has been blamed. I'm looking forward to seeing what eventually

becomes the cost because I have a hard time believing there's a single thing that caused this. Again, if it was a single thing, we should see this happen much more frequently and we don't.

It's much more likely to be a confluence of different unfortunate events, all coalescing at the same time.

CURNOW: Lars Jensen, thank you very much for joining us. Great to have you on the show.

JENSEN: My pleasure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: You're watching CNN. There will be more news after the break.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

CURNOW: U.S. President Joe Biden is zeroing in on his foreign policy agenda and China is certainly a top, top focus. Earlier on this week Biden said he's not seeking confrontation with Beijing but he also warns China's presidency, autocracy, is the wave of the future.

[04:50:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: China has an overall goal and I don't criticize them for the goal. But they have an overall goal to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world and the most powerful country in the world. That's not going to happen on my watch because the United States is going to continue to grow and expand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: Well, China's ambassador to the U.S. responded, saying, "China is not interested in besting America."

Meantime President Biden is shedding light on when U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan. He said it would be hard to meet the May 1st deadline the Trump administration negotiated with the Taliban. But he suggested U.S. forces will leave soon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Do you believe, though, it's possible we could have troops there next year?

BIDEN: I can't picture that being the case.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CURNOW: Well, joining me now from Washington is White House and national security correspondent for "The New York Times," David Sanger.

Thanks so much for joining us, hi. Lovely to see you. I do want to break down these comments from President Biden on Afghanistan. It's both a domestic issue but also a foreign policy issue that has ramifications for many allies.

What do you make of his answer?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You know, what I thought was interesting, Robyn, is, while he had said before that it was hard to imagine that we could pull our troops out by the May 1st deadline, that is part of that negotiated settlement with the Taliban leftover from the Trump administration a year ago, this was the first time that he had put an outer boundary on how long American troops would remain.

He was asked at one point if he could imagine American troops there next year and he said, no, I couldn't picture that.

So this seems to answer the mystery that the White House has until now avoided commenting on, which is, if you don't stay -- if you don't leave by May 1st, how long do you stay?

And the answer seems to be six, eight months, something like that.

Now that then raises the question, what do you do if, during those six or eight months, the Taliban make considerable progress in taking over parts of the country?

Do you simply say, well, that's too bad,; we're no longer here to contain the Taliban and you just pick up and leave?

Or do you just reconsider your commitment?

CURNOW: We also saw how China is becoming a real key issue for this administration and they're seeing it in broader terms here. This isn't just about competition; it's more about autocracy versus democracy, I think, as you write in one of your recent pieces in "The New York Times."

President Biden spoke about it in conference. We also had Antony Blinken in Europe, trying to bring on board in terms of the China-U.S. policy.

What do you make about the kinds of outreach and also progress that might or might not be made when it comes to China?

SANGER: Well, I think the first thing that struck me, Robyn, from the press conference, was that President Biden talks about China in very different terms than his predecessors, particularly the Democrats and other predecessors did.

You know, Bill Clinton, when he would go to China, would say to the Chinese university students, the internet will not only make you free but it will lead to the slow destruction of the Communist Party. Well, clearly that was wrong.

And then Barack Obama would say, we're not trying to stop China's rise. We're encouraging their rise. We wouldn't try a containment policy because there's none that would work.

Well, then you saw president Trump attempt a containment policy in the past year and it hasn't worked.

Joe Biden comes in saying, we're going to outcompete China. We're going to invest, including federal dollars, directly into the technologies that are part of the "made in China 2025," artificial intelligence, electric cars, semi-conductors. The list goes on.

What's interesting is his list looks a lot like Xi Jinping's list.

And then I think the second interesting thing he said was that the struggle of our time is going to be autocrats. And he mentioned Xi and Putin versus democracies. And he did not assume the democracies would win.

He said we have to go prove to the world that democracy remains the best way to go about this. That's not the air of inevitability that you heard from past presidents.

[04:55:00]

CURNOW: Or even indeed American exceptionalism as a guarantee.

SANGER: That's right.

CURNOW: Just before we go, I do want to talk about this because you have written about it as well, the difference between the competition from China compared to, say, during the Cold War. You talk about China is building, not destructing networks, as Moscow does.

How does that also form the basis of this administration?

SANGER: I think what's interesting about this administration is they distinguish sharply from what the Russians are doing versus what the Chinese are doing. The Russians are disrupters, threatening to cut undersea cables and interfere with states that are on their border or on the edge of Europe.

The Chinese are builders. They're trying to move more traffic through their systems by laying that undersea cable. They're trying to use belt and road to try to spread their influence around the world.

What was interesting about President Biden is, as recently as our conversation Friday with the prime minister of Britain, he said, you know, maybe the answer to this is the West needs its own equivalent of belt and road.

So again, it's not a containment policy, it's a policy of trying to band the West together as allies to compete as one against the Chinese.

CURNOW: David Sanger, always great to get your perspective and analysis. Thank you very much. Have a great weekend.

SANGER: Thank you. You, too, Robyn.

CURNOW: That wraps up this hour of CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow. Thanks for joining me. You can join me on Instagram @RobynCurnow. See you again tomorrow, same time.