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Professor Gewirtz Meets with President Obama on U.S.-China Summit

President Obama held an unusual 75-minute meeting with Professor Paul Gewirtz in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on January 14 to discuss the upcoming Summit meeting between Obama and China’s President Hu Jintao held on January 19. Gewirtz, the Potter Stewart Professor of Constitutional Law and director of The China Law Center, was one of five people invited to confer with the President on human rights and other reforms in China and to offer advice for the Summit.

“It was an extraordinary honor to be invited to discuss the upcoming Summit with the President of the United States,” Gewirtz said. “The U.S.-China relationship is the most important bilateral relationship in the world today, and getting that relationship right is crucial for both countries and for the rest of the world. The President listened, asked questions, gave his aides follow-up directions, and seemed completely engaged in the Summit preparation process. It was a remarkable opportunity to have input.”

Law School Dean Robert Post commented, “Professor Gewirtz’s meeting with President Obama reflects his stature in the field of U.S.-China relations and the judgment he characteristically brings to public issues. The Law School takes pride in Paul’s many contributions, which were fittingly recognized in the President’s invitation.”

The lead up to the recent U.S-China Summit and the Summit period itself was a busy time for Gewirtz, whose teaching, writing, and other activities related to China have become increasingly central to his work at Yale. In advance of the Summit, Gewirtz was in China on a trip related to the programs of The China Law Center and to meet with Chinese experts on U.S.-China relations to discuss a wide range of foreign policy issues involving the two countries. He was in Beijing when he received the invitation to meet with President Obama and had to cut short his trip to return to Washington.

Prior to the Summit, Gewirtz was consulted by other Obama administration officials about Summit-related issues, and he also wrote an op-ed about the Summit that was published in The New York Times. During the Summit, he participated in a non-governmental Roundtable on U.S.-China Relations at the Brookings Institution that brought together leading scholars and former government officials to discuss issues that were part of the Summit agenda. At the invitation of Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton, he attended the luncheon they hosted in President Hu Jintao’s honor on the day of the Summit.

A graduate of Yale Law School, Gewirtz teaches and writes in a variety of legal and policy fields, including constitutional law, federal courts, Chinese law, and American foreign policy. While on leave of absence from Yale in 1997 and 1998, he was part of President Bill Clinton's administration, where he served as Special Representative for the Presidential Rule of Law Initiative at the U.S. Department of State. In that post, he conceived and led the U.S.-China legal cooperation initiative agreed to by President Clinton and China's then-President Jiang Zemin at their 1997 and 1998 Summit meetings. He accompanied President Clinton to China in 1998.

After returning to Yale, Gewirtz founded The China Law Center, which carries out research and teaching and also undertakes a wide range of cooperative projects with government and academic institutions in China on key legal and policy reform issues. The Center has become one of the leading institutions outside of China working directly with Chinese partners on legal and policy reforms within China. He has recently begun teaching a seminar on “American Foreign Policy” at the Law School and is working with students to establish a Foreign Policy Workshop—reflecting the fact that a remarkable number of American foreign policy leaders (including, among many others, the current Secretary of State and Deputy Secretary of State and President Bush’s National Security Advisor) are Yale Law School graduates and that many students currently being admitted to the Law School have serious foreign policy interests and career goals.

Gewirtz is a guest professor at Peking University Law School and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.