2019 Young Leaders Institute: U.S.-China Relations

2019 YLI China
  • UPDATE, May 20, 2019 — This session is full. We are no longer accepting applications for the U.S.-China Relations session.

In order to be prepared for the challenges of the 21st century, students need to be globally competent. The Young Leaders Institute (YLI) is a week-long program designed to prepare Houston high school students for leadership in a globally interconnected city and world. Students will engage in the four tenets of global competency:

  • Investigate the world
  • Recognize perspectives
  • Communicate ideas
  • Take action

Throughout the week, students will learn the value of collaboration as they work in teams, researching, debating, and presenting solutions for the challenges facing our world. They will be mentored throughout the week by Asia Society staff and local experts in their respective fields. All content provided will help students form arguments when taking the side of an issue and be invaluable when presenting policy recommendations on the Institute's last day.

Over 120 students have benefited from the Young Leaders Institute in 2016, 2017, and 2018. The Institute's fourth year will include a repeat of the Middle East session and new sessions on U.S.-China relations and on energy and security, respectively. Asia Society staff will also arrange a field trip on one of the days of the week.

Topics discussed during the U.S.-China Relations session may include the following (subject to change):

  • Areas of partnership and mutual understanding
  • China's soft power in Asia
  • Countries' role in global financial systems
  • Historical relations in 20th and early 21st centuries, including notable summits
  • Houston's and Texas's roles in U.S.-China relations
  • Ping-Pong diplomacy and cultural exchanges
  • Relationship between President Xi and President Trump
  • U.S.-China trade negotiations and disputes

For questions, please contact Mei Qi, Business and Policy Programs Manager, at MQi@AsiaSociety.org or 713.496.9915.


"I learned a lot about the different policies concerning China and the U.S. and other nations. It's a good experience and builds us up to be better leaders and prepares us for possible future career paths." — Student, 2018 Young Leaders Institute

"I have been thoroughly impressed with your success in getting young people to think more deeply about global issues. Such opportunities are so critical in this society. I appreciate your work." — Parent of a student, 2018 Young Leaders Institute

"I'm confident that the knowledge I have gained over the last week will assist me greatly in the future. I've been working on honing my skills and there's no better way to do so than through a debate and presentation." — Student, 2018 Young Leaders Institute

About the Speakers

David Firestein

David J. Firestein is the founding executive director of The University of Texas at Austin’s China Public Policy Center (CPPC) and clinical professor at The University of Texas Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. As CPPC chief, David leads UT's institutional engagement with China and oversees innovative programming and policy advocacy efforts on China-related policy topics. Prior to joining UT, David served as senior vice president and Perot Fellow at the EastWest Institute. A decorated career U.S. diplomat from 1992–2010, David specialized primarily in China and U.S.-China relations. He is the author or co-author of three books on China. A near native-level speaker of Chinese, he has interpreted for scores of U.S. and Chinese officials. He is also an advanced speaker of Russian. Throughout his career, David has played an active role advancing U.S.-China relations and U.S.-China and U.S.-Asia trade. He has also produced path-breaking thought leadership, policy papers, scholarship and Capitol Hill testimony on a range of topics, including the U.S.-China “trade war,” U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, U.S.-China infrastructure investment cooperation, U.S. public diplomacy and the role of national exceptionalism as a driver of major international conflict. David currently serves numerous China-focused, Texas-focused and business-focused U.S. non-profit entities in executive leadership and/or Board capacities including president and CEO of the Houston-based George H. W. Bush Foundation for U.S.-China Relations. A native of Austin, David holds a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and two master’s degrees from The University of Texas at Austin.

Tom Kolditz

Tom Kolditz is the founding Director of the Ann & John Doerr Institute for New Leaders at Rice University—the most comprehensive, evidence-based, university-wide leader development program in the world. Serving all 6200 students at Rice, the Doerr Institute is among the largest leader development enterprises in Texas. Formerly teaching at the Yale School of Management, he was chairman of the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at West Point, the founding director of the West Point Leadership Center, co-founded the Thayer Leader Development Group, and built a leader development consultancy, Saxon Castle. Brigadier General Kolditz received the Distinguished Service Medal, the Army’s highest award for service, and is a Fellow in the American Psychological Association. Dr. Kolditz has published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the World Economic Forum. In 2017, he received the prestigious Warren Bennis Award for Excellence in Leadership, a distinction shared by noteworthy leaders including Howard Schultz, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Bill George. He is ranked #6 in Coaching by a UK professional ranking organization, Global Gurus. He holds a BA from Vanderbilt University, three master’s degrees, and a PhD in psychology from the University of Missouri.

Vani Rao

Vani Rao is the Diversity & Inclusion Director for Quanta Services. In this newly created role, she will partner with Quanta’s global operating units to drive profitability through diverse practices and inclusive behaviors. Prior to joining the Quanta family, Vani worked for BP for 15 years with roles in upstream projects & engineering, continuous improvement, planning, capability and most recently in Diversity & Inclusion with accountability for BP America’s employee resource groups. Vani received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Austin College and MBA from Columbia University. She is also certified in project management (Project Management Professional®) and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. She is also a 2012 APAWLI (Asian Pacific American Women’s Leadership Institute) Fellow, a signature leadership program for APA women. As a classically trained dancer, Vani indulges her lifelong love for Indian performing arts and education by serving on Asia Society’s Advisory Board and by supporting charitable organizations in the US and India focused on upliftment. Most of her spare time is devoted to mentoring students and supporting the Dallas Cowboys.

Jon Taylor

Jon Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Oklahoma. His areas of academic specialty are in Chinese politics and public policy, Chinese and U.S. urban politics and urbanization, and comparative public sector ethics. His current research focuses on urban development in Western China, the Communist Party’s online accountability system, measuring provincial level public corruption in China, and the role that indigenous Chinese political science plays within the global discipline. His most recent scholarly works include “Five Years On: The Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Urban Agglomeration,” “Dehegemonizing the Discipline: China’s Contribution to a Pluralist Political Science,” “Between Sinification and Internationalization: Chinese Political Science in the Post-Reform Era,” and “The China Dream is an Urban Dream: Assessing the CPC’s National New-Type Urbanization Plan.”

He regularly contributes opinion and analysis pieces to both Chinese and U.S. media. He is a member of the Association of Chinese Political Studies, the American Political Science Association, and the Chinese Public Administration Society.

About the Facilitator

Mary Reed Image

Mary Reed is a Social Studies teacher at Memorial High School. She earned her B.S. in 1975 from Oklahoma State University. After graduation, she taught United States History in Alief ISD and served as Social Studies Department Chairman. At Memorial High School she has taught AP World History and World Geography at the PreAP, GT, and academic levels. She has served as PTA president and Campus Improvement Team member, District Improvement Team member, and curriculum writer. Being raised on three continents has given Mary an appreciation of other cultures and a love of travel. She has experienced 52 different countries, and imparts her global curiosity to her students both inside the classroom and through leading international summer trips. She is a scholastic coach to several teams including: UIL Current Issues and Events, UIL Social Studies, World Affairs Council Academic WorldQuest Challenge, and Texas Quiz Bowl. She is also the sponsor of her high school chapter of Model United Nations. She has been a featured presenter in other school districts, at professional conferences, and for the World Affairs Council of Greater Houston. She recently presented “Korea: the Forgotten Victory” in Washington, D.C.

Additional Sessions

Session 2: Middle East
Monday, July 15 – Friday, July 19, 2019
Topics may include U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, foreign direct investment, and refugees and internal displacement.

Session 3: Energy and Security
Monday, July 22 – Friday, July 25, 2019
Topics may include the future of renewable fuels, the importance of growing demand, and managing risk in potential geopolitical flashpoints.

Education and outreach programs at Asia Society Texas Center are made possible through generous funding from Karen Chang and the George and Mary Josephine Hamman Foundation. Additional support is provided by Friends of Asia Society Texas Center, a dedicated group of individuals and organizations committed to bringing the best in exhibitions and public programming to Houston.

Presenting Sponsors

Karen Chang Hamman

Event Details

Mon 24 Jun 2019 - Fri 28 Jun 2019
8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

1370 Southmore Boulevard

Houston, Texas 77004


Add to Calendar 20190624T133000 20190628T173000 UTC Asia Society: 2019 Young Leaders Institute: U.S.-China Relations 1370 Southmore Boulevard Houston, Texas 77004 713.496.9901