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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 13, 2006

Leach Discusses China Economy, Taiwan Relations In Law School Address

U.S. Rep. Jim Leach said Chinese leaders would do well to emulate their past to help manage their huge country during its ongoing economic growth.

Speaking at the "China: law, Finance, Security" program at the University of Iowa College of Law, Leach said China historically had numerous political subdivisions to better manage the country's sprawling geography before the Communist takeover. The Communists dismantled those systems, however, in favor of a centralized model managed from Beijing.

Now, as China seeks to modernize and its liberalized reforms lead to ongoing explosive economic growth, he said the country's leaders might want to emulate past models of decentralized government. One such historical model that has been adopted by the government is the letters and visits system that provides a channel for citizens to file complaints about mistreatment by the government. A similar system was first used during China's imperial history. Unfortunately, citizens can wait years for their cases to be resolved.

Leach was delivering the opening remarks at the conference, which examined China's legal reforms of the past 30 years. Enrique Carrasco, a professor of law and director of the UI Center for International Finance and Development, a program co-sponsor, said China was chosen as a topic because it is becoming such a significant player in the world economy. The Chinese economy has been growing at a rate exceeding 8 percent a year and its GDP is now the fourth largest in the world, he said.

One topic for examination was the rule of law in China and whether it can facilitate the growth of democracy. Leach said China's political system will change because a totalitarian government cannot exist side by side with a thriving market economy.

"Change is inevitable," Leach said. "The only question is, will it be for the good?"

The program also examined mainland China's relationship with Taiwan, the autonomous island that the mainland claims as its own. Although there is a growing independence movement in Taiwan, Leach urged caution on the part of those who advocate for independence. The idea of an independent Taiwan is so repellent to mainland leaders and citizens that any move by the island's leaders to declare independence would almost certainly result in military action.

"I can think of nothing more that could cause an earthquake in world affairs than an independence movement in Taiwan," he said, adding that the results could be "catastrophic" for millions of people in both places.

Other scholars who spoke at the symposium included Larry Cata Backer of Penn State University; John Ohnesorge of the University of Wisconsin and director of the East Asian Legal Studies Center; Xiaoping Chen, editor-in-chief of the China Law Digest; Jason Li and of Southern Methodist University; Lung Chu Chen of New York Law School; and Zhengyuan Fu of the University of California-Riverside.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010, tom-snee@uiowa.edu.