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Influential Chinese law professor blasts Xi Jinping in interview

Jerome Cohen, a key legal scholar in helping China open up, expresses pessimism about U.S.-China relations

Jerome Cohen on a visit to Taiwan (Flickr, Office of the President photo)

Jerome Cohen on a visit to Taiwan (Flickr, Office of the President photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In an interview with Voice of America today, New York Chinese law professor Jerome Cohen said in the five years since Xi Jinping first got into power, China has fallen into a shocking state, and the future of U.S.-China relations looks rocky and uncertain.

Cohen has observed U.S.-China relations for over half a century and said the two countries are currently going through one of their most difficult periods. Firstly, he commented, the Trump administration’s China policy is full of uncertainty, but worse still is Xi Jinping’s regressive domestic and foreign policies.

This combination had led to a very uncertain and pessimistic future for China-U.S. relations, he said.

Cohen stated that Xi Jinping is the big boss of China today and should take full responsibility for the state’s shocking, oppressive policies. He said Xi’s backwards policies have led him to become the “teacher by negative example” Mao Zedong once spoke of.

The professor witnessed great change in China between the Cultural Revolution years and the period when it began to open up, and has astutely observed the progression of Xi Jinping’s dictatorship. Although he may not live to see the end of Xi’s rule, he said, just as he was convinced Mao would not last forever, he believes Xi will also be toppled one day.

Now 88 years old, Cohen was one of the first American legal experts to help connect China with the outside world. He helped China procure foreign investment through key work establishing tax laws to comply with international norms. This was during the late 70s and early 80s when him and his wife first moved to China.

Today, 40 years later, U.S.-China relations have fallen under what he calls “extremely difficult” circumstances. He regrets Trump’s “hostility” towards China without a concrete policy basis but also believes “nothing is worse” for China than having Xi handle the U.S. and international affairs.

Cohen also regrets the alarming regression China has undergone since Xi took power. He states: “Xi believes in rule by law, he is a dictator. He wants everything done according to his orders and rules. He wants to use the law as a weapon to control people, but he does not allow freedom to exist.”

The professor also brought up China’s repression of human rights, particularly in Xinjiang and Tibet. He asserted that the abuse of Uighur and Kazakh Muslims and the detention of millions of people is an international scandal.

He appealed for discussion over the possibility of confronting Xi Jinping with the Magnitsky Act, which allows U.S. authorities to impose sanctions on individuals guilty of human rights offenses.