Susan A. Thornton

Susan A. Thornton

Senior Fellow – Paul Tsai China Center, Yale Law School, Nonresident Senior Fellow – Foreign Policy, John L. Thornton China Center

Susan A. Thornton is a retired senior U.S. diplomat with almost 30 years of experience with the U.S. State Department in Eurasia and East Asia. She is currently a senior fellow and research scholar at the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale University Law School; director of the Forum on Asia-Pacific Security at the National Committee on American Foreign Policy; and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Until July 2018, Thornton was acting assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the Department of State and led East Asia policymaking amid crises with North Korea, escalating trade tensions with China, and a fast-changing international environment. In previous State Department roles, she worked on U.S. policy toward China, Korea, and the former Soviet Union and served in leadership positions at U.S. embassies in Central Asia, Russia, the Caucasus, and China.

Thornton received her master’s in international relations from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and her bachelor’s from Bowdoin College in economics and Russian. She serves on several non-profit boards and speaks Mandarin and Russian.

Camden Conference, member
Council on Foreign Relations, member
Eurasia Foundation, member, board of directors
National Committee on American Foreign Policy, director, Forum on Asia-Pacific Security
National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, member, board of directors

  • Areas of Expertise

    • American diplomacy
    • International relations
    • Korea
  • Current Positions

    • Senior Fellow and Research Scholar, Paul Tsai China Center, Yale Law School
    • Director, Forum on Asia-Pacific Security, National Committee on American Foreign Policy
  • Past Positions

    • Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Department of State (2014-2018)
    • Diplomatic Assignments in China, Russia, Caucusus, and Central Asia (1991-2014)
    • Research Analyst, Foreign Policy Institute, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (1987-1991)
  • Education

    • M.S., Eisenhower School for National Resource Studies, National Defense University, 2010
    • M.A., Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, 1991
    • B.A., Bowdoin College, 1985
  • Languages

    • Chinese
    • French
    • Russian
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