Cheng Li Named Director of the John L. Thornton China Center at Brookings

Washington D.C. — Cheng Li, one of the world’s leading authorities on Chinese leadership and generational change, has been named director of the John L. Thornton China Center, effective March 3, Brookings President Strobe Talbott announced today.

Li has served in the center as a senior fellow since 2007 and as director of research since 2009. His areas of expertise include the Chinese middle class, elite politics, public health and tobacco control, Sino-U.S. educational exchanges, the role of think tanks and the Chinese telecommunications industry. He has also spearheaded the Thornton Center Chinese Thinkers Series, a set of volumes that introduces prominent Chinese thinkers to English language readers.

“I am pleased that Cheng has agreed to serve as director of the Thornton China Center while still providing timely analysis of important developments in China,” said Talbott. “Cheng has demonstrated a unique ability to incorporate diverse perspectives into his research, helping to bridge cultural divides and better inform policymakers and the public in the United States, China, and around the world.”

Li grew up in Shanghai during the Cultural Revolution and enrolled in graduate study in the United States in the 1980s. He received an M.A. in Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Ph.D. in political science from Princeton University. Before joining Brookings, Cheng served as William R. Kenan Professor of Government at Hamilton College. He is also a director of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a member and former vice chair of the Committee of 100, a leading non-profit organization of prominent Chinese-Americans.

“Cheng will be a great team leader for the many world-renowned scholars in the China Center as they continue to analyze China’s rise,” said Ted Piccone, acting vice president and director of the Foreign Policy program at Brookings. “I am confident he will identify innovative ways to engage a global audience on the future of the U.S.-China relationship.”

Talbott and Piccone also expressed appreciation for Jonathan Pollack’s outstanding leadership of the John L. Thornton China Center. Under his leadership, the Center added a senior fellow on the Chinese economy, organized high-profile events with senior U.S. and Chinese officials, and enhanced collaboration with think tanks in China. They also welcome his return to full-time scholarship as a senior fellow on China and East Asia strategy in the Thornton Center and with a new joint appointment in the Center for East Asia Policy Studies (CEAP). Pollack’s research on China’s political-military roles in East Asia, U.S. regional strategy and the Korean peninsula will enable expansion of Brookings’ research on the Asia-Pacific region under the leadership of Richard Bush, senior fellow and director of CEAP, who will also assume a joint affiliation with the Thornton China Center.

The Brookings Institution launched the John L. Thornton China Center in 2006, with headquarters in Washington, D.C. and an office in Beijing in partnership with the School of Public Policy and Management at Tsinghua University. The Center undertakes cutting-edge research, analysis, and publications on China's emergence and its internal, regional and global implications.