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Return of the Prodigal Son. Ossip Zadkine. Photo credit: Karen Kao

Shanghai Noir



In the process of researching this week's blog post, I ran into a copy of the Chinese constitution. There have been 4 constitutions since the Communist Revolution. The last one was promulgated in 1982. The most recent amendments were enacted in 2018 when term limits for the president of China were removed from the constitution. As a result, the "trinity" - the president, the Party chairman and head of the People's Army - can remain in power indefinitely.

But that was not what I was looking for. I've been thinking for a while about the surveillance going on in China, spurred in part by news reports and random conversations with my oldest son, who is a fledgling geopolitical expert. He told me that Chinese companies have an active obligation to share their private information to the state. I was looking for a source for that statement.

Article 54 of the Chinese Constitution (2004 version) states: "It is the duty of citizens of the People's Republic of China to safeguard the security, honor and interests of the motherland; they must not commit acts detrimental to the security, honor and interests of the motherland." I imagine that this constitutional provision provides the basis for any incursions into citizen privacy, though that may not be the political reality.

To my surprise, there is also a clause in the Chinese Constitution that applies to me. Article 50 states: "The People's Republic of China protects the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese nationals residing abroad and protects the lawful rights and interests of returned overseas Chinese and of the family members of Chinese nationals residing abroad." So, it seems, I have some skin in this game. Read all about it in: Uncle Xi Wants You!

The good news is that I'm not heading to China. Instead, by the time you read this newsletter, I'll be in Los Angeles. Hence the photo for this newsletter, Return of the Prodigal Son by Ossip Zadkine. The bad news, of course, is that I'll be taking a short two-week break with this newsletter. I promise to be back in March with news of my adventures in California (if any) and the inspiration derived from the books I'm towing along.

p.s. The three Han Kang novels - The Vegetarian, Human Acts, and The White Book - were out of this world. Highly recommend! Book review(s) to follow.

On Revision
Year of the Pig
Made in China
How to Get Lost
Food Fight

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