The U.S.-Asia Law Institute’s Nineteenth Annual Timothy A. Gelatt Dialogue: Why Should We Care About China’s Legal System? (Video)

Gelatt Dialogue speakers (left to right) Professor Frank K. Upham, Professor James B. Jacobs, Professor Eleanor Fox, Professor Jerome Cohen, Professor Richard B. Stewart, Professor Jose Alvarez, and Professor Ira Belkin

Gelatt Dialogue speakers (from left to right) Professor Frank K. Upham, Professor James B. Jacobs, Professor Eleanor Fox, Professor Jerome Cohen, Professor Richard B. Stewart, Professor José Alvarez, and Professor Ira Belkin

On Tuesday, November 12, over two hundred people gathered in NYU Law’s Greenberg Lounge for the U.S.-Asia Law Institute’s Nineteenth Annual Timothy A. Gelatt Dialogue on the Rule of Law in Asia. Established in memory of the late NYU law teacher, lawyer and Asian legal scholar, this year’s Dialogue featured seven members of NYU’s law faculty in an informal discussion of academic engagement with China.

Professor Jerome Cohen, Co-Director of the U.S.-Asia Law Institute and Professor of Law at NYU, moderated the event by asking each of the speakers to respond to a similar set of questions on their perceptions of China’s legal system and considerations regarding avenues for NYU Law’s continued engagement with the country.  The questions elicited many diverse responses from the speakers, whose expertise encompassed the fields of international law, human rights, competition law, criminal justice, environmental law, and property law. However, one overarching opinion resonated throughout: China is important. And here is why, according to the NYU Law faculty:

José Alvarez, Herbert and Rose Rubin Professor of International Law

“We have to look at China. Obviously, it is a state that is important because it is big. That is, we’re talking around twenty percent of the world’s population, the second largest economy, soon to be first, a regional player that is competing with us on many levels, including with respect to the Transpacific Partnership, where China is creating – as great, big states do – rival forums. It is beginning the trajectory of not just being comfortable in international organizations, but actually shaping them.”

Ira Belkin, Executive Director, U.S.-Asia Law Institute

“One way or another, regardless of your area of expertise or practice, China will impact what you are doing. That is why we have to do a better job of trying to understand what’s going on in China.”

Eleanor Fox, Walter J. Derenberg Professor of Trade Regulation

“One of the big issues in the Third Plenum was about how much more China should move toward markets, because China is perceiving that with more markets it will get greater growth and more efficiency. The counterweight to that is, ‘And how much more government control?’”

James B. Jacobs, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger Professor of Constitutional Law and the Courts

“I am always interested in how things are actually working, the difference between the law on the books and the law in action. In thinking about what we’d like to do in the future, I’d certainly like to learn more about what is happening in the institutions, pre-trial detention, prisons, the courts, in mediation, and so forth, and how much variation there is across the country.”

Richard B. Stewart, John Edward Sexton Professor of Law

“What is there to do about the paradox of prosperity and all of these [environmental] problems? The new government now realizes that the environment is a problem. But they still do not have the wherewithal and laws to deal with it. There is a lot to be done with the legal administrative system.”

Frank K. Upham, Wilf Family Professor of Property Law

“Why should we be interested in the Chinese legal system? I am interested in the Chinese legal system for what it can teach us about development. In the last thirty years, China has brought out more people from poverty than all the rest of the countries in the world combined. It has not been able to recreate the Taiwanese and Japanese economic growth with a great deal of equality, but we have something to learn from the Chinese experience over the last thirty years. How has China developed and brought all of these people out of poverty without a formal system of property rights? We have the obligation to find that out.”

For more from Gelatt, please see below for a full recording of the event.

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