Washington Post: The forgotten victims of China’s Belt and Road Initiative

By Jerome A. Cohen

I played a minor role in the publication of an op-ed, The forgotten victims of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, with my colleague Aaron Halegua, a terrific Chinese labor law scholar whom I take credit for spotting many years ago, even before he started his JD study at the Harvard Law School! Here's the link to the op-ed online in the Washington Post. The Post was glad to have it and did a very careful job checking the facts and editing it, but I do not think it will appear in the paper because there are just too many Mueller Report-related op eds at the moment.

Cornell, Renmin University and Academic Freedom

By Jerome A. Cohen

Here’s a good article containing Eli Friedman’s thoughtful explanation of what led to the break with his labor colleagues at Renmin University in Beijing. As he predicts, we will see more of these problems as the impact of Xi Jinping’s repression becomes more severe. 

Yet, as Eli recognizes, these are not new problems, only more apparent and numerous in the “new era”. Previous incidents of interrupted Sino-American academic cooperation have often gone unreported. Some were caused by changes in the Party leadership at a given institution or changes in local government policy. The U.S. side would often seek to find some compromise that would save the cooperation. In each case it would be necessary to balance the pros and cons of continuing with the original Chinese partner, and sometimes it was possible to find a better opportunity at another Chinese institution if the tipping point came at the initial place. 

In view of today’s increasing repression, these problems have become more challenging, and Eli has done a public service by ventilating Cornell’s experience and reaction. 

What Ivanka Trump’s company should do for labor conditions in Chinese factories making the brand’s shoes

Here’s a good report by Keith Bradsher looking into labor conditions in a Chinese factory making Ivanka Trump shoes, a sequel to his report on China’s detention of labor activists who went undercover at Chinese factories making shoes for Ms. Trump and other brands.

For the detained labor activists striving to improve working conditions, Ivanka Trump’s company has a moral responsibility to speak out. It would be helpful to the situation of the activists if the company would issue a statement expressing deep concern over their detention. That alone might bring about their release. In any event it would stimulate local police to treat the detained better than otherwise; detention house conditions in China are often appalling with a large number of suspects confined in a single cell in an often disgusting and personally dangerous environment. A Trump expression of concern might well result in a faster, more lenient decision about how to deal with the case.The Marc Fisher company at least made a prompt statement promising to inquire into the facts.

Ivanka’s company has a moral responsibility not only to those detained but also to all workers who are exploited by Chinese companies striving to make a profit while competing with rivals to successfully respond to the demands of foreign companies for ever cheaper prices. It would also be good public relations for Ivanka to take the lead in supporting more humane working conditions. She should not see the human rights monitors as antagonists but as collaborators in the difficult effort to assure improved labor conditions.