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UT Austin Launches China Policy Center

New China Policy Center will make contributions to China-related policy topics.

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AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin will establish a new interdisciplinary China Policy Center, 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.

The center will seek to develop solutions to contemporary policy challenges through a robust program of “track 2 diplomacy,” through which open, citizen-to-citizen diplomacy is used to help governments reach workable policy solutions. Located within the LBJ School of Public Affairs, the center will serve as a resource for the university community, the Texas business community, the City of Austin and the State of Texas.

David Firestein, currently the Perot fellow and senior vice president at the EastWest Institute and a highly regarded expert on China, will serve as the inaugural executive director of the center, which formally launches on Aug. 28, 2017.

The center will leverage the comparative advantages and unique attributes of the LBJ School, UT Austin, the city and state to further the interests of the U.S.-China relationship and develop a highly differentiated China policy identity. It will develop innovative policy ideas and solutions across a wide range of China-related domestic and foreign policy topics through an active program of convening, “track 2 diplomacy,” lectures, courses, public advocacy and a variety of services to and opportunities for UT students and faculty members.

“The opening of the China Policy Center furthers our mission to expand and strengthen UT’s global engagement,” said UT Austin President Gregory L. Fenves. “Under the leadership of UT alumnus David Firestein, an accomplished China policy expert and think tank executive, the center will bring together resources and expertise from across our campus to generate innovative research about today’s China-related policy challenges, strengthen collaboration with global partners in academia and industry and create exciting new opportunities for our students and faculty.”

Angela Evans, dean of the LBJ School, said: “I am honored that the university has entrusted the LBJ School to be the center’s home. The China Policy Center will be a hub for collaboration among multiple disciplines in our work to create innovative approaches to policy challenges in the global arena. No one is better suited to lead this new policy-focused center than David Firestein. I warmly welcome him to UT and to the distinguished LBJ team.”

The China Policy Center will increase the impact of the study of China policy and diplomacy at the state’s flagship university. China is the world’s second largest economy, America’s largest trade partner and a formidable economic competitor. China is Texas’ third largest export market and the second largest source of imports. Texas is also the third most popular destination for Chinese foreign direct investment and the third most popular U.S. state destination for Chinese undergraduate and graduate students.

“China is a vitally important global player, the United States’ single most consequential overall bilateral partner, and a country of immense and growing importance to Texas, its economy and its people,” David Firestein said. “The University of Texas at Austin, a premier institution of higher learning in the United States and the world, has a mandate to ‘change the world.’ This new China Policy Center, which I am deeply honored to be entrusted by President Fenves and Dean Evans to stand up and lead, will help The University of Texas realize that ambition.”

A former U.S. diplomat, Firestein has spent most of his 25-year professional career working on China and U.S.-China relations. In the course of his career as a professional diplomat and senior executive at a top-50 U.S. think tank, Firestein has made significant contributions to U.S.-China relations, at both the conceptual and practical levels. His work has garnered written plaudits from numerous former U.S. secretaries of state, national security advisers and members of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as senior mainland Chinese and Taiwan officials. In 2006, on the strength of his China-focused external communications efforts, Firestein won the Secretary of State’s Award for Public Outreach. He is the author or co-author of three books on China, including two China-published, Chinese-language best-sellers, and well over 100 policy papers, op-eds and articles in major international periodicals. Described by the Voice of America’s Mandarin Service in November 2016 as “one of the best nonnative speakers of Chinese in the world,” Firestein has interpreted for scores of U.S. and Chinese Cabinet-level officials. A native of Austin, Firestein is a graduate of UT Austin’s’s joint master’s degree program in public affairs and Asian studies. He previously served as an adjunct member of the UT graduate faculty, teaching U.S.-China relations and U.S.-Russia relations.