Benjamin Liebman Invited to White House Meeting on China

Liebman shared his expertise on human rights and legal reforms in China with leading administration officials

Spring 2012

The White House invited Professor Benjamin L. Liebman to meet with Vice President Joe Biden and senior Obama administration advisers one week prior to a February visit by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinpin. Xi is widely expected to become China’s top leader later this year.

At the White House, Liebman discussed human rights and legal reforms in China. The meeting was believed to indicate the United States’ commitment to human rights issues abroad, as well as its interest in China’s stability and growth.

“Vice President Biden made his view clear that developing a society that provides robust protections of basic rights is in China’s interest both politically and economically,” Liebman said. “The U.S.-China relationship is extremely complex. It is clear that human rights and rule of law issues continue to be one important aspect of the relationship.”

Liebman maintains a grassroots perspective on China’s legal problems through regular visits to major Chinese cities and small towns, as well as through interactions with the country’s legal community. He said White House officials display a growing awareness that human rights initiatives must address the rights of average Chinese citizens.

Rule of law issues, in particular, provide a viable area of cooperation between China and the U.S. While legal reform has slowed in China, Liebman notes that there is a growing number of well-trained officials who support meaningful change. “Despite recent setbacks and very serious ongoing problems, it is also important to recognize the progress China has made,” he said.

China continues to face many challenges, Liebman added, but it is in the interest of both that country and the U.S. to push for legal reforms. “In the long run,” he said, “China needs to continue improving its legal system if it is going to maintain stability.”