• B.S.F.S., Georgetown University
  • MPAff dual with Asian studies, The University of Texas at Austin

David J. Firestein is the inaugural executive director-designate of The University of Texas at Austin’s recently announced China Policy Center (UTCPC) and clinical professor-designate at UT’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. As UTCPC director, Firestein will lead UT's institutional engagement with China and advance innovative interdisciplinary research on China-related domestic and foreign policy topics. Firestein begins his formal duties at the University on August 28, 2017.

At present, Firestein serves as senior vice president and Perot Fellow at the EastWest Institute (EWI), a top-rated New York City-based foreign policy think tank.  Over the course of nearly 8 years, Firestein has led EWI’s work in the areas of U.S.-China relations, East Asian security and U.S.-Russia relations.

A decorated career U.S. diplomat from 1992 to 2010, Firestein specialized primarily in China and U.S.-China relations, serving a total of five years at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. The author or co-author of three books on China, including two China-published, Chinese-language best-sellers, Firestein was the first foreign citizen to have a regular column in a People's Republic of China (P.R.C.) newspaper, the first foreign diplomat ever to publish a book while serving in China, and the first sitting foreign diplomat to host a television series in the P.R.C.  Firestein is a near-native speaker of Mandarin Chinese. In November 2016, the Voice of America Mandarin Service described Firestein as "one of the best non-native speakers of Chinese in the world."

Apart from his China-related public service, Firestein's diplomatic career also featured stints at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, in the State Department's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) policy office and in a senior role at the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. In the course of his career, Firestein played an active role advancing U.S.-China and U.S.-Asia trade. In his EWI capacity, he was invited to address and advise the 20/20 Investment Association, a group of the world's most prestigious and economically powerful institutional investors who together represent over $9 trillion in investment capital, on geopolitical and economic developments relating to China and Russia.

In both his diplomatic and think tank executive roles, Firestein has produced highly regarded thought leadership and scholarship on a range of topics. His co-authored work on the topic of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, for example, has garnered the written testimonials and praise of numerous former U.S. secretaries of State, national security advisors, and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as former senior foreign affairs officials from mainland China and Taiwan and numerous senior Chinese military leaders. Firestein's leadership in the area of U.S.-China infrastructure investment cooperation has been hailed by both senior U.S. and Chinese observers as pathbreaking. Firestein's work on national exceptionalism as a driver of major international conflict in the 21st century has likewise garnered substantial attention, including within the U.S. and Chinese militaries.

Since 2001, Firestein has periodically taught at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, including at The University of Texas during the 2006-2008 academic years. Firestein is also a frequent speaker on academic campuses, including the United States military's war colleges, and NGO platforms across the country. He has ongoing relationships with the University of Houston, Michigan State University and the Jackson Hole (Wyoming) Center for Global Affairs (JHCGA).

Firestein received his bachelor's degree in international relations from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and his master's degrees in public affairs (LBJ School) and Asian studies from UT-Austin.  Firestein is a native of Austin.


NewsJune 29, 2017
LBJ School Home to New UT China Policy Center

The University of Texas at Austin will establish a new interdisciplinary China Policy Center, to be housed at the LBJ School, with a charge to make fresh and enduring contributions to the study of China-related policy topics while advancing U.S.-China relations and Texas-China relations.

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