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The "Axios on HBO" interview with China's ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai had tense moments.

What they're saying: At one point, during an exchange about allegations of torture from former Muslim detainees in Xinjiang camps, Cui said it would not be productive to keep discussing such matters. At another point, he accused Axios of insulting the Chinese Communist Party and equated the Party with the Chinese people.

  • Amid extended questioning over the timeline of Chinese authorities suppressing doctors and censoring crucial public health information that could have saved lives, Cui said, "What happened to Dr. Li and his colleagues now is under investigation by the central government."
  • Li Wenliang, the Chinese doctor, who was reprimanded for sounding the alarm on the potential of a deadly coronavirus outbreak, has been exonerated, per Politico.

On the expulsion of American journalists from China:

  • "Axios on HBO": "I read that column in the Wall Street Journal and it didn't seem to me that there was anything that would violate a law in it. It was really criticizing...
  • Cui: "That article was very insulting on the entire Chinese nation.
  • "Axios on HBO": "I'm sure people will disagree, Mr. Ambassador. ... The question is whether it's a good idea to expel reporters because of something you disagree with."
  • Cui: "Maybe the first question you have to ask, whether it's a good idea to write such an article at all."

On the disappearances of Chinese citizen journalists who were reporting on the coronavirus from inside Wuhan:

  • "Axios on HBO": "Where is the citizen journalist Chen Qiushi? He was doing some of the early videos from inside Wuhan that were showing the response to the virus and the chaos that was happening inside Wuhan."
  • Cui: "I have not heard of this person."
  • "Axios on HBO": "Really? Chen Qiushi?"
  • Cui: "Why not?"
  • "Axios on HBO": "Well you were asked about him on "Face the Nation" on February 9."
  • Cui: "No, I was not asked about any particular journalist."
  • "Axios on HBO": "You were. ... I watched the clip. Margaret Brennan named Chen Qiushi."
  • Cui: "But I did not know him then. I don't know him now."
  • "Axios on HBO": "Well, it's a month later. Weren't you curious to find out who he was?"
  • Cui: "We have 1.4 billion people back in China. How can I learn everything about everybody?"

Go deeper:

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

First look: The LCV's $4M ad buy

A screenshot from a new League of Conservation Voters ad supporting Rep. Stephanie Murphy.

The League of Conservation Voters and Climate Power are aiming another $4 million worth of ads at centrist House Democrats, urging them to support the climate provisions in President Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Progressive groups are trying to counter the onslaught of conservative money pouring into swing districts. Both sides are trying to define Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda and pressure lawmakers to support — or oppose — the legislation scheduled for a vote in the House this week.

Shutdown Plan B

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Senate will hold a futile vote Monday night — just 72 hours before a potential shutdown — on a House-passed bill to fund the government through Dec. 3 and raise the debt limit.

Why it matters: The bill is going to fail. Period. But then comes Plan B: A "clean" continuing resolution — stripped of language about raising the debt limit — that Democrats spent the past week preparing, Axios is told.

Glenn Youngkin's play: Forever- and Never-Trumpers

Glenn Youngkin in Harrisonburg, Virginia, on Friday. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Standing on a flatbed hitched to a John Deere tractor in red Rockingham County, Virginia, Glenn Youngkin decried California liberalism and bashed his rival, Terry McAuliffe. He also encouraged early voting. Two words he avoided: Donald Trump.

Driving the news: Youngkin, the Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee, is mounting a serious challenge to McAuliffe — a former governor and veteran of Democratic politics. Axios caught up with him on Friday in Harrisonburg, Virginia.