A Mecca for Creative Thinkers

A Mecca for Creative Thinkers

Food For Thought
The Coudert Institute’s “Lunch & Learn” Lecture Series
Copyright Vladimir Kagan, January 18, 2014

 "Today China" Professor Jerome Cohen's subject at the Coudert Institutes' Lecture and Learnseries which was open to the public 

Dale Coudert is a powerhouse…. She has a vision and a mission: all she wants to do is change Palm Beach from a culture of glitterati and trivia into a haven for transforming minds. (Think: The Aspen Institute). Her non-profit Coudert Institute offers culture and intellect in a refined, intimate setting, whether in her glorious Addison Mizner garden, her eclectic living room, the glamorous Sail Fish Club, the Royal Poinciana Chapel or the meeting room of the Palm Beach Synagogue… It’s not the setting that matters; it’s the content.

This is Dale’s 10th year of providing culture to Palm Beach audiences… Her series started this past November and runs through March. I unfortunately missed the first two lectures. Upon arrival in Palm Beach, my first Coudert experience was an enchanting twilight concert in her garden presented by three gifted young performers playing a mixed program of classic and contemporary music. It was magical, watching the sun set and the moon rise, all the while listening to beautiful music.

Coudert Institute’s “Lunch & Learn” lecture series is open to the public. …This past Wednesday, I heard a brilliant presentation by Professor Jerome Cohen on “China Today”. Professor Cohen is the undisputed expert on East Asian Law; he was the director of East Asian Studies at Harvard Law School from 1964 – 1979 and is currently a professor at NYU and co-author of China Today.

Professor Jerome Cohen addressing the “Lunch & Learn” lecture series

Professor Cohen read the riot act to us. China is a Colossal that posses real present and future problems that cannot be ignored and worse of all, are mostly beyond our control. Scary stuff without redemption.

Professor Cohen's “to watch list”

TAIWAN – The mainland Chinese want it back and won’t give up till they get it. It’s a delicate balancing act… the present Taiwanese President, Ma Ying-Jeou, has sagaciously negotiated eighteen agreements with The People’s Republic of China. That is placating them… temporarily at least… But if push comes to shove… we’ll be square in the middle of it with our Taiwan Relations Act Commitment to defend Taiwan..

Taiwan presents a dilemma for the Mainland… it is often said that a Confucius society is not equipped to handle democracy…yet Taiwan is a vibrant democracy, functioning with a widely diverse political party system. This is a direct threat to China’s Capitalist Communism. Taiwan is an energetic free society that deserves more attention than the NY Times gives it.

CHINA vs. JAPAN both are belligerent proud nations that have a deep-rooted hatred toward each other. Stubborn Nationalism enflames the rhetoric between these two great powers… The dispute over a pile of five rocks sticking out of the East China Sea, someplace between the Mainland and Japan, is a flash-point that can erupt into gunfire at anytime if the two parties don’t back off… again, our defense commitments to Japan could drag us into an unwanted mess even though we claim to be neutral.

EAST CHINA SEA washes the shores of South Korea while the SOUTH CHINA SEA lies between the Philippines and the Mainland. Both South Korea and the Philippines are our allies and as a reward have defense treaties with us. China is encroaching on their territory, sea and air space and claiming strategic portions as their own… dangerous stuff.

NORTH KOREA (yuck) a possibly failing country with atomic bombs in the cellar and making maximum political use of them… they are as much China’s problem as ours… but they are strategically and historically in China’s orbit. Unfortunately our diplomatic policy toward them has been too rigid and narrowly-focused ever since President Clinton’s initiative at the end of his administration in 2000… a policy immediately discarded by Bush and then Obama… North Korea is an impoverished nation desperate for foreign investments, but lacks the savvy to attract it. We know that commerce is a door opener to better relationships.

AIR AND WATER POLLUTION – FOOD, MINERAL & WATER SHORTAGES – MINORITIES - GOVERNANCE all issues haunting the new Chinese regime… perhaps even too big for their new powerful leadership to solve. China has a population of 1,351 billion mouths to feed and govern… it is a vast, diverse country with severe problems with Tibetans and Uyghurs… its political structure is riddled with corruption, starting at the local and provincial level is and permeating upward through its society… too powerful and influential to wipe out. Current attempts are serious but limited, aimed mostly at the enemies of the current leaders. The entrenched upper middle-class, who are the beneficiaries of this corruption will not let go easily… if ever… Pollution will take generations to fix… food shortages are already apparent…

EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE also know as EEZ a 200 mile protected area of limited national jurisdiction… this is intended to protect fishing rights, oil exploration and undefined other commercial rights – China interprets this as also excluding military aviation and naval reconnaisance without its permission, long a flash point with the USA. We are challenging them with continuing incursions since we believe the law of the sea supports our interpretation, as it appears to.

SOUTH CHINA SEA also washes the shores of Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia… all important to our political and economic interests… and then there is India… a behemoth ready to defend its interests against China, in  a region definitely warranting watching.

There is an institution called the International Court of Justice where disputes can be brought and judiciously settled, providing both disputants are willing to abide by its ruling. China doesn’t recognize the court's compulsory jurisdiction… but then again we haven’t signed onto it either… so it’s a feeble tool of justice.

Do you remember the debacle of a young blind man and people’s advocate being arrested and tortured in his back-woods farming community and then successfully making a dramatic escape and finally finding refuge in the American Embassy? (to the utter embarrassment of our Country and jeopardizing Hillary Clinton’s official visit to Beijing)  It became a “cause celeb” threatening vital relationships between our two countries… Whom did they turn to - to diffuse the crisis? Jerome Cohen, who cunningly Got Mr. Chen Guangcheng invited to NYU’s Law School and then legally squired him and his family out of China… Bravo Professor!