Carl Minzner, Associate Professor of Law at Fordham University, Speaks at USALI

On Thursday, January 30, Professor Cohen sat down with Professor Carl Minzner, Associate Professor of Law at Fordham University, to discuss his background and opinions on China’s current administration.

Beginning with his birth in Albuquerque, New Mexico to a family of lawyers, Professor Minzner spoke with Professor Cohen and the audience about his illuminating experiences in the legal field, and specifically as a researcher in both the political and academic spheres of China studies. “My interest in China came after college,” he stated at the beginning of the discussion. Following an undergraduate education at Stanford, Professor Minzner struck out for Taiwan to teach English to kindergarteners. Five years later, he had acquired proficiency in Mandarin through study in both Taiwan and Yunnan and had received an M.A. and J.D. from Columbia University.

In 2003, Professor Minzner began work at the Congressional Executive Commission on China, a Commission established following China’s entry into the WTO to keep Congress apprised of rule of law and human rights issues within China.  It was here that Professor Minzner gained his “formative experience working in Chinese law,” developing, from his own research and colleagues, a broader perspective on how law in China functioned. In 2006, Professor Minzner took on a year-long position as a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He subsequently began his career in academia at Washington University, where he stayed for three years, and is now at Fordham University, where he teaches property and Chinese law.

Since entering academia, Professor Minzner’s research has focused on the Chinese leadership’s approaches to resolving social grievances. Several years ago, he wrote about the Hu-Wen administration’s turn away from late 20th century Chinese legal reforms that had emphasized litigation, courts, and lawyers. With regard to the current administration, Professor Minzner is dubious about, as Professor Cohen phrased, a “return to law.” “Political resistance to deep institutional reform means that it’s going to be hard to see substantive shifts on key issues,” he said. The most critical problem the current Chinese administration has to figure out, he believes, is how to open existing political and legal institutions and allow “building social pressure and discontent” to flow into them, rather than erupt in street protests.

When asked why reform is important to him, Professor Minzner replied, “I don’t want the whole place to collapse. I’m worried that might happen if it doesn’t undertake deep reform…I think China is a wonderful place, and I would really like to see things work out for it.”

For more on Professor Minzner’s publications and current research, please follow this link.

USALI’s next weekly lunch will take place on Tuesday, February 4 with guest speaker Benjamin van Rooij, John S. and Marilyn Long Chair Professor for US-China Business and Law at University of California, Irvine.