Town Hall: The Road Ahead for U.S.–China RelationsVIEW EVENT DETAILS
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
7 p.m. Virtual Town Hall
Live Town Hall
A new phase of U.S.–China relations is underway, as both countries have indicated a desire to reset the bilateral relationship with a new administration in Washington, D.C. In a January 21 webcast addressing the future of U.S.–China relations following the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden, Bush China Foundation president and CEO David Firestein called for confidence-building measures from both sides to stabilize the relationship, as well as for a more measured, businesslike, and fact-based approach that would focus on the issues and how to solve problems.
The subjects of contention between the U.S. and China are complex and extensive, spanning issues of trade, technology, security, global health, and human rights. Numerous questions remain about how the Biden administration will move forward or how Beijing will respond — as well as how the effects will be felt in each country and worldwide.
Asia Society at Home
In a sequel to the January webcast, David Firestein returns to Asia Society Texas Center for a virtual town hall, where participants are invited to ask him their own questions about one of the world's most important relationships.
Space is limited and registration is required. Participants will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis.
About the Speaker
David J. Firestein is the inaugural president and CEO of the George H. W. Bush Foundation for U.S.-China Relations (Bush China Foundation) and a founding and current member of the Foundation’s Board of Directors. He is based in Austin, Texas.
Prior to joining the Bush China Foundation, Mr. Firestein was the founding executive director of The University of Texas at Austin’s (UT) China Public Policy Center (CPPC) and a clinical professor at UT’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. Before moving to UT, Mr. Firestein served as senior vice president and Perot Fellow at the New York City-based EastWest Institute (EWI), where he led the Institute’s track 2 diplomacy work in the areas of U.S.–China relations, East Asian security and U.S.–Russia relations; Mr. Firestein, who held EWI’s lone endowed chair, remains one of the longest-serving senior executives in EWI history.
A decorated career U.S. diplomat from 1992–2010, Mr. Firestein specialized primarily in U.S.–China relations. Among the honors he garnered during his diplomatic career were the Secretary of State’s Award for Public Outreach (2006) and the Linguist of the Year Award (1997). Toward the end of his State Department career, he served as an elected member of the Board of Governors of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), the union and professional association of the United States Foreign Service; in this capacity, he represented and worked to advance the interests of several thousand State Department constituents. He also served as the elected president of the large community associations of the U.S. embassies in Beijing and Moscow.
Mr. Firestein is the author or co-author of three books on China, including two China-published Chinese-language best-sellers, as well as a large number of China-focused monographs, policy reports and articles (and publications on non-China-related topics). As a writer, Mr. Firestein broke new ground in a number of ways: in the mid-1990s, he became the first foreign citizen to have a regular column in a People’s Republic of China newspaper and the first foreign diplomat (and perhaps the first foreign citizen) to publish an original book in the country, among other milestones. He is a prolific public speaker and frequent commentator in the U.S. and Chinese media. The Voice of America’s Mandarin Service wrote in 2016 that Mr. Firestein is “one of the world’s best non-native speakers of Mandarin Chinese”; early in his career, he interpreted for dozens of top-level U.S. and Chinese leaders and officials. (Mr. Firestein also speaks Russian.)
In the years since he left the State Department, Mr. Firestein has produced path-breaking Capitol Hill testimony, thought leadership and scholarship on a wide range of topics, including U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, U.S.–China trade, the role of national exceptionalism as a driver of major international conflict, the value of government, U.S. public diplomacy in the wake of 9/11 and the use of contemporary country music as presidential campaign communication. Numerous incumbent and former U.S secretaries of state and national security advisors from both sides of the partisan aisle — along with multiple other incumbent and former U.S. Cabinet members, members of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. combatant commanders and other prominent U.S. figures — have lauded his contributions and achievements in the area of U.S.-China relations.
In recent years, Mr. Firestein periodically has been invited to brief significant swaths of the U.S. investment community, including via the 20-20 Investment Association and the Pacific Pension & Investment Institute, which together represent well over $30 trillion under management, on China and U.S.–China relations.
Mr. Firestein currently serves on the boards of directors or advisors of over a dozen foreign affairs-focused, business-focused, China-focused and Texas-focused U.S. non-profit organizations. Of particular note, he is one of the few Americans who is concurrently formally affiliated with two different U.S. presidential legacy entities (the Bush China Foundation; and the LBJ School of Public Affairs, where he serves on the Dean’s Advisory Council). He is also the only non-profit executive ever elected to the Board of Directors of the Texas Association of Business, Texas’ influential chamber of commerce. And he is a member of the founding, and current, Board of Directors of the U.S. Heartland–China Association, where he serves as the inaugural chairman of the policy committee.
Mr. Firestein was a member of the graduate faculty of The University of Texas at Austin for a total of four academic years, most recently from 2017 to 2019. He was also the first foreign diplomat ever to teach courses and coach debate at MGIMO (now, MGIMO University), Russia’s premier foreign affairs training ground.
A native of Austin, Texas and current resident of the Austin area, Mr. Firestein holds a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and two master’s degrees from The University of Texas at Austin, as well as various advanced training certifications from the National Foreign Affairs Training Center of the U.S. Department of State.
About the Facilitator
Paul Sheng is a senior partner in McKinsey’s Hong Kong office and leads the Oil & Gas Practice globally and the Global Energy and Materials Practice. His client work spans corporate governance, growth strategy, capital productivity, operations and supply chain, business-unit strategy, mergers and acquisitions, and functional excellence.
Having been with McKinsey for close to 20 years, Paul’s clients have included a major oil company, regional oil companies in Latin America, the Middle East, China, and Africa, regional exploration and production independents, private-equity firms, and oilfield services providers. Examples of Paul’s client projects include the restructuring of exploration and production for a major oil company, the development of a planning and performance-management system for an independent oil company, and the building of merger and acquisition and post-merger capabilities at a Middle Eastern energy company.
He has also supported an African national oil company through a long-term transformation and advised on the diagnostics and design of a capital management system for a Chinese national oil company. Paul has also led work on commercial due diligence, market assessment, and post-acquisition improvement for several private-equity acquisitions in oilfield services.
Within McKinsey, Paul has led knowledge-development initiatives on managing mature assets, the workforce of the future, the oilfield services sector, and strategic benchmarking. Before joining McKinsey, Paul was a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.
Asia Society hosts today's leading voices, providing commentary on events in news, society, and culture. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect Asia Society views.
Asia Society Texas Center Business & Policy Programs, Endowed by
Business and Policy programs at Asia Society Texas Center are presented by Bank of America, Muffet Blake, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and United Airlines. Major support comes from Nancy C. Allen, Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen, Nancy Pollok Guinee, and Mary Lawrence Porter, as well as The Brown Foundation, Inc. and Houston Endowment. Additional funding is provided by the Friends of Asia Society Texas Center, a dedicated group of individuals and organizations committed to bringing the best in public programming.
Business & Policy Presenting Sponsors
About Asia Society at Home
We are dedicated to continuing our mission of building cross-cultural understanding and uplifting human connectivity. Using digital tools, we bring you content for all ages and conversations that matter, in order to spark curiosity about Asia and to foster empathy.
About Asia Society Texas Center
With 13 locations throughout the world, Asia Society is the leading educational organization promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among the peoples, leaders, and institutions of Asia and West. Asia Society Texas Center executes the global mission with a local focus, enriching and engaging the vast diversity of Houston through innovative, relevant programs in arts and culture, business and policy, education, and community outreach.
More from Asia Society
For event details visit https://asiasociety.org/texas/events/town-hall-road-ahead-us-china-relations For event details visit https://asiasociety.org/texas/events/town-hall-road-ahead-us-china-relations
Connect with Us!
Asia Society At Home
Join us for virtual field trips, online classes for adults, and at-home adventures and resources for students!
Revisit highlights from the very best of our in-person programs — in bite-size form.
Explore insights and conversations that contextualize information around the COVID-19 pandemic.
Join us for broad-ranging webcast conversations with speakers and artists to inform, educate, and uplift.
Stay entertained indoors with the Asia Society Texas Center team's favorite books, shows, games, podcasts, and more!
Enjoy a closer look at the art and architecture of Asia Society Texas Center.
Dive into a curated variety of videos, articles, webcasts, and more from around the web.
Join us on an adventure through the diverse cultures of Asia through at-home lessons and activities for young learners!