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Video: China focuses on airlines, airports to help its growth

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    >>> welcome back to " morning joe " at 30 past the hour. joining us now, national correspondent for the atlantic, james fallows , author of the new book " china airborne." james, good to see you.

    >> fascinating story that you chronicle here, and i get asked why you decided to write a book about china 's air --

    >> i mean --

    >> you love it. a real love of yours.

    >> yes.

    >> i enjoy doing that but i also thought after being in china most of the last six years this was a way to tell the big story of china . essentially, are they going to make the next step from being a low-wage ecostructure to being a really rich country ? one of the industries they're pushing on like crazy and whether the going to work or not.

    >> what are you learning whether it will?

    >> i think it's much more a dicey proposition than most americans think. the last ten years the idea has been what china wants, china achieves by snapping its fingers. it's a lot easier thing to build a giant stadium, even pull off the olympics than have a complex industry like building boeing aircraft or having pharmaceuticals, another one they're pushing, and also the role of the military is actually the most important impediment of what they're trying to do. the military controls all the air space . that's a battle between the economic people in china and the military.

    >> and the talk about china is always that sit's going to pass us. a look at china . talking to the secretary. having landing in an airport in china . better than nany of ours. there's a bit of an argument we're in a bait of a race?

    >> certainly. anything bought with cash money they have better are and more of than we do now. the number of new airports, one or two in construction now. there are 100 new airports being built in china . if you go there, you can't believe it. the way people must have felt when laguardia was first opened or l.a.x. in my hometown was first opened. it's all new, because they've been so backwards. the planes -- go on chinese airlines. planes are all new and flight crews all young and hired for being young. it's like an earlier era.

    >> back to the role of the military, which i think some find increasingly fascinating. there's a burgeoning scandal going on in china that involves an aspect of the military.

    >> bolshalie.

    >> he at some point goes to the town, or the city where his father was posted and the public bureau, the chinese leadership gets very upset in addition to the scandal because of his ties to the military. what does that bode for the future of china as a government?

    >> interesting to contrast this with secretary powell who was here a minute ago. he epitomizes the thorough connectedness of the military with the rest of the civilian government and the president is commander in chief but the pentagon is swi civilians running the military and military professionals like colin powell be trained back and forth about how civilian government works. there is nothing like that with the people's liberation army . structurally, the only place it touches the civilian government is in the person of the president of china . who's also the chairman of military commission . there's no interweaving controls as we have here. so an ongoing real question for the country is, how much is the military a creature of the government, and how much is it its own thing? that's one of the tensions they're trying to kind of domestictary doesn't go off on its own adventures.

    >> i'm sorry.

    >> you say this airline is not a sure thing.

    >> right.

    >> what will decide and when will it be decided whether or not it's a success? a. short term and longer term thing. short term is, almost all of the air space in china is run by the people's liberation army . if you want to fly, say, from beijing to shanghai, which is like -- like boston to d.c., the equivalent, you're routed out through st. louis because the military doesn't want you in airspace. it's inefficient, a big drag how things work. plane flight, low altitude because of this. short term the military needs to loosen up. longer term, the question is, all the sophistication that it takes to put together a boeing dreamliner or something like that. it requires a kind of social looseness that the chinese model has not really been accustomed to yet. like having universities independent to do their own things. international relations that go more normally than the ones from china have. so they're aspiration, if they can do this in aerospace, it's a sign they can do any of these other high-end industries and not just assembles apples, assembling things for other companies.

    >> how long did you live in china ?

    >> a little more than three years for the first. went back much of last year, too.

    >> you said china is a subject, a topic where the more you know, the less you understand, and you talk about the frustration that -- what's true in one region is false in another. it is -- it is a gigantic nation, and it is -- as churchill would say, what? it's a mystery, enigma wrapped in a riddle.

    >> right. i came to view this not so much as frustration as being just like life. life is full of contradictions. you never know what's going to happen. general powell was saying the question about the future is you don't know. so as applies to china , the message i tried to get across is, this is really an interesting place. it's full of all of these oddball characters i describe who are trying to be the wright brothers and p.t. barnums and everything else of china , and it is so different that every place you go there's a surprise. so mainly americans shouldn't think, well, red china does x, because some guy in beijing might say, red china is going to do x and some gip 1,000 miles away said, to hell with you. i have my own scheme. i'm going to build an air park . i saw a guy build a palace of versailles to live in, for scale, just because he wanted to.

    >> oh, my gosh.

    >> so it's a big life -like place that is worth taking an interest in.

    >> the book is " china airborne" james fallows , thank you so

Photos: The dance of two giants: History of modern relations between the United States and China

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  1. World War II alliance

    After Japan’s Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II, Washington joined forces with China’s Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-Shek to drive Japan’s invading forces out of China. This 1942 photo, taken in Burma, shows U.S. Gen. Joseph Stilwell with Chiang and Madame Chiang, aka Soong May-ling. At this meeting, Chiang informed his military staff that Stilwell would lead them against the Japanese forces. The Nationalist and rival Communist forces cooperated in fighting the Japanese invaders, but ultimately turned against one another to battle for control of China. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. 1949: Communist victory

    Soviet-backed Communists, led by Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong, won the nation's power struggle -- ultimately putting Beijing and Washington on opposite sides in the Cold War. In this Oct. 1, 1949 image, Mao proclaims the founding of the People's Republic of China. With the Communist victory, Chiang and many influential Nationalists fled to the island of Taiwan, where they set up a rival government in hopes of one day regaining control of the mainland. Despite its close wartime ties with the Nationalists, U.S. President Truman initially took a position of nonintervention in the bitter dispute between Beijing and Taipei. The outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 prompted Washington to get more involved in the region’s conflicts and to strengthen its military presence in the Taiwan Straits. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. 1950-1953: Korean War face-off

    Conflict erupted between Russian-backed North Korea and U.S.-backed South Korea, creating a hot front in the Cold War. The Korean War pitted American-led U.N. troops and South Korean forces against North Koreans and their allies, including Chinese forces. The Korean War ended with a cease-fire — but not a peace treaty -- cementing the division of the Korean peninsula at the 38th parallel. It also established a substantial U.S. military presence in Asia — a long-term irritant to U.S.-China ties. In this image from the Korean War, U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, right, commander of U,N. forces in Korea talks with Maj. Gen. Doyle Hickey. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. 1960s: In rift with U.S.S.R., China looks West

    In the early 1950s, Moscow provided hundreds of advisers and substantial financial support for China’s new Communist leaders. But after Joseph Stalin died in 1953, the Sino-Soviet relationship deteriorated steadily over differences in ideology and international relations. Tensions escalated into military buildups along the Sino-Soviet border. After armed clashes erupted between Chinese and Soviet forces along China’s northeast border, many observers predicted war. Ultimately, the two sides backed down. But Mao came to realize that he could not confront both the U.S. and the Soviet Union simultaneously and decided that Moscow posed the greater threat. Here, a Chinese soldier stands guard in China's Xinjiang region on the Soviet-Afghan border in April 1969. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. 1971: Ping pong diplomacy

    In a symbolic opening of communication with Washington, China invited the U.S. table tennis team to visit Beijing. The team, which was already in the region competing in Japan arrived on April 10, 1971, becoming the first U.S. sports delegation to visit Beijing since the Communists took power in 1949. The decision reportedly came directly from Mao. In this image, members of the American ping pong team watch a match between a teammate and a Chinese opponent in Beijing. (Frank Fischbeck / Time & Life Pictures via Getty Image) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. 1972: Nixon visit “changed the world”

    In February 1972, U.S. President Richard Nixon, who had a reputation as a tough anti-communist, traveled to China to hold talks with Communist Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai. On the final stop of the trip to Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai, the U.S. and Chinese governments issued the Shanghai Communiqué — a pledge to work toward the normalization of diplomatic relations. Nixon later said of the trip: "This was the week that changed the world,” in which the two sides agreed “to build a bridge across 16,000 miles and 22 years of hostilities which have divided us in the past.” In this Feb. 22, 1972, image, Mao and Nixon shake hands after their meeting in Beijing. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. 1976: Mao's end, start of a new era

    The death of Chairman Mao Zedong in 1976 marked the end of an era of radical politics and isolation from the West. In just a few years, Deng Xiaoping triumphed over conservative ideologues who had surrounded Mao, and rose to leadership of China's Communist Party and government. While beginning experiments with economic reforms, Deng also opened the doors to broad cultural and educational exchange with the United States. In this image, Chinese citizens file past Mao as he lies in state in Beijing on Sept. 12, 1976. (AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. 1979: Formal ties

    Formal diplomatic relations were restored between Beijing and Washington on Jan. 1, 1979. Simultaneously, Washington severed formal relations with Taiwan (Republic of China), while continuing business and cultural ties. Through the Taiwan Relations Act, Washington also promised to supply defensive weapons to Taiwan. Shortly after the resumption of ties with Beijing, Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping visited the United States, meeting with top U.S. officials and business leaders. Deng was pressing economic reforms in China and preparing to greatly expand his free market experiment in the 1980s. In this image, Deng, right, and his wife Zhuo Lin, far left, appear with U.S. President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter on Jan. 31, 1979. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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    1989: Tiananmen crackdown puts relations on ice

    Popular protests in Beijing and other cities were crushed by a military crackdown, leaving hundreds of people dead. In response, the United States imposed economic and trade sanctions on China and many U.S. citizens working or studying there left the country. Beijing remained unrepentant in the face of the sanctions and criticism over its human rights record, which the Chinese government rejected as “interference” in China’s internal affairs. In this June 4, 1989, photo, dead civilians lie among mangled bicycles near Beijing's Tiananmen Square. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. 1992: U.S. weapons sales anger Beijing

    China protested vehemently when U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, which had been hovering around $500 million a year, suddenly jumped more than 1,000 percent with the sale of 150 F-16 fighter jets. China charged that the sale violated a 1982 agreement with Beijing in which Washington said it would not increase weapons sales to Taiwan in either quality or quantity. Supporters of the sale said it was in line with the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, in which the United States pledged to provide arms to Taiwan seen as necessary for its defense. In this Sept. 12, 2007, image, missiles are arrayed next to an F-16 fighter jet at the Chiayi air force base in southern Taiwan. (Sam Yeh / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. 1995: Lee trip rankles Beijing

    For the first time since it re-established formal diplomatic ties with China, Washington granted a visa to a sitting Taiwan president. The move drew a harsh protest from Beijing, which also suspended nuclear and missile control talks with the United States. Lee Teng-hui, Taiwan's first democratically elected president, especially angered Beijing because of his ambivalence to reunification with China. Breaking from decades of Nationalist Party rhetoric, Lee stressed the right of Taiwan people to determine their future. Some feared that if Lee or newly empowered Taiwan voters made a formal call for independence, it could prompt military action by Beijing and pull the U.S. into the conflict. In this June 10, 1995, photo, Lee chats with Cornell University President Frank Rhodes after speaking at the school. (Bob Strong / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. 1997: Breaking the ice after a decade

    Chinese President Jiang Zemin and U.S. President Bill Clinton held formal talks in Washington in late 1997, marking the first state visit by a Chinese leader since before the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. The meetings covered trade tensions, nuclear technology, human rights abuses and religious persecution in Tibet. In this image, Jiang and Clinton share a toast during a state dinner on Oct. 29, 1997 in the East Room of the White House. A year later Clinton traveled to Beijing for formal discussions, signaling that relations between the two countries were getting back on a more normal footing after a decade of tension. (Paul J. Richards / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. 1999: U.S. airstrike hits Chinese Embassy

    During NATO air raids on Serbia, U.S. warplanes bombed China’s embassy in Belgrade, killing three journalists in the building. U.S. President Bill Clinton and other U.S. officials apologized for what NATO described as a tragic error. But Beijing and many Chinese citizens believed the strike to be intentional, and the incident sparked anti-American protest in China. In this image, taken May 9, 1999, a day after the bombing, thousands of Chinese protesters march on the U.S. and British embassies in Beijing. (Stephen Shaver / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. 2000: Trade with China normalized

    After years of negotiation with Beijing, U.S. lawmakers granted China Permanent Normal Trade Relations status, allowing unconditional, unlimited access for Chinese-made goods into the U.S. market. It also ended an annual review of China’s human rights record, upon which continuation of trade access had been conditioned. The action also paved the way for China’s entery into the World Trade Organization in September 2001. From 2000 to 2008, U.S.-China trade volume soared from $116 billion to $409 billion. In this image from May 2000, Chinese workers produce shoes for a U.S. company at a factory in northeast China’s Shenyang city. (Goh Chai Hin / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. 2001: Midair collision

    A U.S. spy plane made an emergency landing on Hainan Island off China’s southern coast after a collision with a Chinese F-8 fighter jet. One Chinese pilot died after parachuting into the South China Sea. China detained the 24-member U.S. crew of the EP-3 Aries II reconnaissance aircraft for 11 days, releasing them only after the U.S. sent a letter of apology. Beijing also suspended all U.S. military visits to Hong Kong, a key stopover point, for three months. In this image from an April 13, 2001, briefing at the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld tells reporters that the Chinese jet became aggressive and hit the U.S. plane from below. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. 2006: China’s top technocrat tours U.S.

    Chinese President Hu Jintao, who assumed control of the Communist Party, the government, and the military between 2002 and 2004, made his first visit to the United States as president. Hu, a member of what is known as China’s “fourth generation” of leaders, was generally seen as more pragmatic and less driven by ideology than past leaders -- Mao, Deng and Jiang. Hu’s four-day visit, which included a tour of Boeing, dinner with Bill Gates, a speech at Yale University, and talks with President George W. Bush, departed from the heavily scripted state visits of past Chinese leaders. In this image, Hu, second from left, listens to a presentation about new technology at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash. on April 18, 2006. (AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. 2007: Dalai Lama award angers Beijing

    The 14th Dalai Lama greets supporters October 17, 2007 in front of the U.S. Capitol during a trip to Washington, D.C., to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award bestowed by U.S. lawmakers. The award infuriated Chinese leaders who had long accused the Tibetan spiritual leader of seeking independence for Tibet, which China claims as part of its territory. The Dalai Lama has lived in exile since 1959 when China's military crushed the Tibetan resistance movement. He denies advocating independence for Tibet and instead accuses Beijing of committing cultural genocide in the region. (Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. 2009: U.S.-China recession tensions

    Amid global recession, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner traveled to China to discuss economic issues with China's top leaders. Washington pressed Beijing to let its currency trade more freely to help correct the trade imbalance. The U.S. also urged Beijing to encourage Chinese citizens to save less and spend more to help boost the global economy. An increasingly assertive Beijing also presented its agenda, calling on the United States to "guarantee the safety of China’s assets" in the U.S. Beijing worried that Washington’s policies would cause the dollar to depreciate, with dire consequences for its investments. Beijing holds $1.45 trillion in U.S.-denominated assets. In this June 2, 2009, image, Geithner meets with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. 2010: Currency wrangles

    U.S. President Barack Obama meets China's President Hu Jintao on November 11, 2010 during a G20 Summit in Seoul amid the continuing global financial crisis. China was under criticism for keeping its currency artificially low against the dollar and other currencies to boost exports. Facing domestic pressures, President Obama urged China to continue movement on its exchange rate, while the Chinese leader pledged cooperation and a more flexible currency policy. (Jim Young / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. 2012: A fireside chat in Iowa

    China's Vice President Xi Jinping talks with local people in the home of Roger and Sarah Lande in Muscatine, Iowa on February 15, 2012. Xi first visited the city in 1985 as a young man and stayed for two days to research Iowa's agriculture. The vice president's sentimental return visit was choreographed to show that China's leader-in-waiting can connect with the people of the American heartland, at a time of tensions between China and the United States. (Kevin E. Schmidt / Pool via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. 2012: Refuge for a dissident

    Chinese blind dissident Chen Guangcheng, left, talks with U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke, right, on May 2, 2012 in Beijing. Chen made a dramatic escape from house arrest and sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy just days before the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A potential diplomatic crisis was averted when China and the United States negotiated an agreement to allow Chen to travel with his family to the United States. (US Embassy Beijing via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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