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Thomas Jefferson, Carsun Chang and A Lost Era of U.S.-China Constitutional Engagement

March 29, 2024

12:20 pm - 1:20 pm

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Austin Hall; 308 Morgan Meeting Room

Jedidiah Kroncke

Associate Professor of Law, University of Hong Kong


Professor Kroncke’s study recovers a lost era of Sino-American constitutional imagination surrounding the drafting of the 1946 Republic of China Constitution. It examines the transnational dynamics that led the Constitution’s initial drafter, Carsun Chang, to travel to the U.S. in 1945 to ostensibly study the ideas of Thomas Jefferson then ascendant in New Deal constitutional rhetoric.

This study recontextualizes Chang’s life as one of China’s new generation of cosmopolitan intellectuals moving between its contentious post-dynastic politics and the institutions of the post-World War II international legal order. Chang’s invitation by the Roosevelt Administration involved many little known but determinative turns, including the role of a subset of Truman Administration officials actively enamored with Jefferson’s own study of Confucianism.

Transnationalizing our understanding of the 1946 Constitution helps reveal how the geopolitics of the Chinese Civil War intersected with the presumed projection of American constitutional values increasingly embedded in American internationalism. The fallout from the drafting process also illuminates the transition of America from a global symbol of constitutional revolution to a symbol of global racial empire. Recapturing this era has implications for originalist-styled constitutional arguments made in contemporary Taiwan, as well as evaluating the international dimensions of Jefferson’s deeply problematic domestic legacy.

Dr. Jedidiah Kroncke is an associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong, where he teaches trust law and the law of cooperative enterprises, and serves as Director of Early Career Research and Director of the Global Academic Fellows program. Previously, he was a professor at FGV Sao Paulo School of Law and Senior Research Fellow at the East Asian Legal Studies program at Harvard Law School. Professor Kroncke’s research centers on international legal history and the comparative study of alternative labor and property institutions. His first book, The Futility of Law and Development: China and the Dangers of Exporting American Law (Oxford University Press 2016), explores the role of U.S.-China relations in the formation of modern American legal internationalism and the decline of American legal comparativism. Other publications have addressed law and development, authoritarian law and legal ethics, the history of international law, and comparative law and political economy. He received a B.A. from the University of California Berkeley, a J.D. from Yale Law School, and a Ph.D. in Social and Cultural Anthropology from UC Berkeley, and then served as the HLS Berger-Howe Legal History Fellow, NYU Golieb Fellow in Legal History, and Ruebhausen Fellow in Law at Yale Law.


Boxed lunch will be provided.

Sponsored by East Asian Legal Studies.

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March 29, 2024, 12:20 pm - 1:20 pm

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