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David J. Firestein


David J. Firestein is the inaugural president and CEO of the George H. W. Bush Foundation for U.S.-China Relations and a member of the Foundation’s Board of Directors. He is based in Austin, Texas. Prior to this, he was the inaugural 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. As CPPC chief, Mr. Firestein led UT’s institutional engagement with China and oversaw innovative interdisciplinary research on China-related domestic and foreign policy topics.

Before joining UT, Mr. Firestein served as senior vice president and Perot Fellow at the EastWest Institute; there, he led the Institute’s work in the areas of U.S.-China relations, East Asian security and U.S.-Russia relations.

A decorated career U.S. diplomat from 1992–2010, Mr. Firestein specialized primarily in China and U.S.-China relations. He is the author or co-author of three books on China, including two China-published Chinese-language best-sellers. Mr. Firestein speaks Chinese at the near-native level.

Throughout his career, Mr. Firestein has played an active role advancing U.S.-China and U.S.-Asia trade. He has also produced path-breaking thought leadership, scholarship and Capitol Hill testimony on a range of topics, including U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, U.S.-China infrastructure investment cooperation and the role of national exceptionalism as a driver of major international conflict today. He was also a principal architect of the U.S.-China High-Level Political Party Leaders Dialogue.

Mr. Firestein currently serves on the boards of directors/advisors of about a dozen Texas-focused, China-focused, foreign affairs-focused and business-focused U.S. non-profit entities. Of particular note, he is a founding director of the United States China Heartland Association (USHCA); an elected member of the Board of Directors of the Texas Association of Business (TAB) – Texas’ powerful chamber of commerce – where Firestein is the Board-level leader responsible for TAB’s China initiatives; and a member of the UT LBJ School of Public Affairs’ Dean’s Advisory Council.

Since 2006, Mr. Firestein has served as a member of the graduate faculty of the University of Texas at Austin for a total of four years, most recently, during the 2017-2019 academic years. A native of Austin, Firestein holds a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and two master’s degrees from The University of Texas.