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Jerome A. Cohen

Adjunct Senior Fellow for Asia Studies

Expertise

Legal and business transactions in Asia; international relations of East Asia; international law.

Programs

Winston Lord Roundtable on Asia, the Rule of Law, and U.S. Foreign Policy

Bio

Mr. Cohen has been an adjunct senior fellow for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) since 1995. Mr. Cohen has special expertise in business and public law relating to Asia, especially China. Since 1990, he has been a professor at the New York University School of Law, where he currently teaches courses on Chinese criminal justice and Chinese business law and frequently teaches International Law--East and West.

Mr. Cohen formerly served as Jeremiah J. Smith professor, director of East Asian legal studies, and associate dean at Harvard Law School. He has published several books, including The Criminal Process in the People's Republic of China, 1949–63, People's China and International Law, and Contract Laws of the People's Republic of China, and many articles on Chinese law as well as a general book, China Today, coauthored with his wife, Joan Lebold Cohen. In 1990, he published Investment Law and Practice in Vietnam.

The Cohens lived in Beijing during 1979–81, while Mr. Cohen took part in various trade and investment contract negotiations as consultant to the Coudert Brothers law firm and taught a course on international business law in the Chinese language for Beijing officials. Mr. Cohen formerly served as adviser to the Government of Sichuan Province, China; as chairman of the American Arbitration Association's China Conciliation Committee and to the New York/Beijing Friendship (Sister City) Committee; as trustee to both the China Institute in America and the Asia Society; and as a member of the board of editors of both the China Quarterly and the American Journal of International Law. He continues to serve on the advisory board of Human Rights Watch--Asia and is a trustee of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Mr. Cohen is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Yale College (BA, 1951) and graduated in 1955 from Yale Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal. He was law secretary to both U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren (1955 Term) and to Justice Felix Frankfurter (1956 Term). He subsequently practiced law, served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia and was consultant to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations before beginning an academic career at the University of California School of Law at Berkeley in 1959. He moved to Harvard Law School in 1964 and remained a full-time faculty member there until he joined the international law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in 1981. He retired from commercial law practice in 2000 but continues to serve as arbitrator and mediator in international business disputes relating to Asia and as adviser to families of persons detained in China, including Taiwan. He is a member of the bar in New York, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia.

Languages:

Mandarin Chinese (Fluent)

All Publications

Article

Mutual Respect for International Laws Can Keep the Peace Between China and the U.S.

Author: Jerome A. Cohen
U.S.-Asia Law Institute

Although China’s increasingly “assertive” international conduct has naturally stirred widespread concern in both Asia and the US, especially regarding the South China Sea, an overview of Beijing’s foreign policy suggests a less alarming perspective. In some major subjects, such as environmental pollution and climate change, there are good prospects for Beijing’s cooperation with the United States and other nations.

See more in United States; China; Diplomacy and Statecraft

Testimony

China's Future–and Our Own

Author: Jerome A. Cohen

In his testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Jerome A. Cohen argues that China would benefit at home and abroad by demonstrating increasing respect rule of law, while the United States, by striving harder to set a good example, could do much to improve not only its own society but also its standing in China and the world.

See more in China; Defense Strategy; Economics

Op-Ed

Will China Close Its Doors?

Authors: Jerome A. Cohen and Ira Belkin
The New York Times

In this op-ed, coauthored with Ira Belkin, Cohen argues that a draft law targeting foreign institutions — including universities, museums, athletic and cultural groups, professional associations and all nonprofit social organizations established outside of mainland China — makes clear that Beijing has become much less welcoming.

See more in China; Nonstate Actors and Nongovernmental Organizations; Politics and Strategy

Op-Ed

Did the Game Just Change in the South China Sea? (And What Should the U.S. Do About It?)

Author: Jerome A. Cohen
China File

As the 14th annual Asia Security Summit—or the Shangri-la Dialogue, as it has come to be known—gets underway in Singapore, we asked contributors to comment on what appears to be a recent escalation in tensions between the U.S. and China over the two countries’ presence in the South China Sea.

See more in Asia and Pacific; United States; Conflict Assessment

Op-Ed

How Taiwan’s Constitutional Court Reined in Police Power: Lessons for the People’s Republic of China

Authors: Jerome A. Cohen and Margaret K. Lewis
Fordham International Law Journal

For over six decades, police in Taiwan could lock up people they deemed "hooligans" (liumang) for years with at most a cursory review by the courts. This article by Margaret K. Lewis and Jerome A. Cohen discusses the detailed process by which judges, officials, and legislators—spurred by civic groups, lawyers and academics—brought about annulment of the relevant legislation, the Act for Eliminating Liumang.

See more in Taiwan; Rule of Law

Ask CFR Experts

Will Tibet ever achieve full statehood?

Asked by Brian Luckett, from Morgan State University

There is little prospect Tibet will achieve full statehood in the foreseeable future. Apart from preservation of its own power, China's Communist Party's highest imperative is the territorial integrity of the country. It is determined to keep Tibet a part of China and thus far the world community has acquiesced in China's claim.

Read full answer

See more in Tibet; Diplomacy and Statecraft

Op-Ed

Empty Promises

Author: Jerome A. Cohen
South China Morning Post

"Criminal justice has been the weakest link of China's legal system, which, despite constitutional and legislative protections of the right to defence, has in practice rarely allowed defendants adequate opportunity to question prosecution witnesses and rebut their claims," writes Jerome A. Cohen, with respect to Bo Xilai's trial.

See more in China; Rule of Law

Events

Winston Lord Roundtable on Asia, the Rule of Law, and U.S. Foreign Policy

Director: Jerome A. Cohen, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Asia Studies
November 1, 1996—Present

The Roundtable on Asia, the Rule of Law, and U.S. Foreign Policy examines the many meanings of the "rule of law" and the role of law and legal culture in the economic growth, institution-building, and protection of human rights in Asian countries. Participants from the government, NGO's, and academia join to discuss the relevance of the rule of law to U.S. foreign policy and what measures the public and private sectors might adopt to foster desired developments.

CFR Events

General Meeting ⁄ New York

NY Videoconference: Taiwan's Future

This meeting is on the record.

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Roundtable Meeting

Implementing Article 23 of the Basic law in Hong Kong

This meeting is not for attribution.

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Press/Panels

Panel

Overseas Press Club of America Panel on China's Crackdown

On May 18, the OPC hosted a panel discussion to consider how far Chines President Xi Jinping will go in taking steps against not only corrupt members of the Communist Party, but also against all elements of a civil society. Panel members also discussed the implications for U.S.-China relations.

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