Yawei Liu

Yawei Liu manages the China Focus at The Carter Center and has been a member of numerous Carter Center missions to monitor Chinese village, township, and county people’s congress deputy elections since 1997. Dr. Liu has written extensively on China’s political developments and grassroots democracy, including three edited book series: “Rural Election and Governance in Contemporary China” (Northwestern University Press, Xi’an, 2002 and 2004), “The Political Readers” (China Central Translation Bureau Press, Beijing, 2006), and “Elections & Governance” (Northwestern University Press, Xian, 2009). He is the founder and editor of the China elections and governance website Dr. Liu is also co-author of the popular Chinese book “Obama: The Man Who Will Change America” (October 2008).

Dr. Liu is adjunct professor of political science at Emory University and associate director of the China Research Center in Atlanta.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in English literature from Xi’an Foreign Languages Institute (1982), master’s degree in recent American history from the University of Hawaii (1989), and doctorate in American political and diplomatic history from Emory University (1996).

Susan Thornton

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.

Robert A. Kapp

Robert A. Kapp maintains his own China consultancy, Robert A. Kapp & Associates, Inc., in Port Townsend, Washington.  He is Senior Advisor to The China Program of the Carter Center, and served, in reverse chronological order, as President of the Washington D.C.-based U.S.-China Business Council from 1994-2004; President of the Washington Council on International Trade, 1987-1994, and Founding Executive Director of the Washington State China Relations Council, 1979-87. 

He earned his Ph.D. in modern Chinese History at Yale, and taught on the faculties of Rice University and the University of Washington through the 1970s.

Nat Ahrens

Nathaniel Ahrens is a non-resident fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University SAIS. Ahrens is also the executive director and founder of the American Mandarin Society and the president of Nimble Lingo, a Chinese language-learning technology company.

He was previously the Director of China Affairs for the University of Maryland (UMD). Prior to joining UMD, Ahrens was deputy director and fellow with the Hills Program on Governance at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and was formerly an adjunct fellow with the Freeman Chair in China Studies, also at CSIS. In 2010 he was a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Previously, he worked for ten years in China. He was senior product manager and director of international sales for Intrinsic Technology, a Shanghai-based telecommunications software provider and also founded Shanghai Pack Ltd., a luxury-brand packaging company based in Shanghai and Paris. Ahrens also spent a year managing cruise ships on the Yangtze River.

Ahrens is a member of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and is a FinTech4Good Fellow. He holds a Master of International Public Policy from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies with a concentration in international economics, an A.B. from Vassar College, and studied at Beijing Language and Culture University from 1995-96.

Matthew Chitwood

Matthew Chitwood is a research writer with expertise in economic development and education exchange in China. He recently returned from a two-year fellowship with the Institute of Current World Affairs reporting from an impoverished village in Yunnan province. His work has been published in Foreign Affairs, Foreign PolicyThe New Republic and The American Interest and he is currently working on a book based on his fellowship research.

Matthew has worked for study-abroad programs including CET, CIEE, and Where There Be Dragons and also for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship Program. He holds a dual M.A. in China studies and international economics from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, and he is a member of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.

Dan Jasper

Daniel Jasper is the Asia Public Education and Advocacy Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee, where he has advocated for diplomacy, humanitarian cooperation, and peacebuilding with North Korea and China since 2015. 

He has assisted and taken part in humanitarian delegations to North Korea and regularly participates in Track II dialogues with Chinese foreign policy experts. Jasper is a co-founder of the Korea Peace Network and leads grassroots efforts across 25 states calling for government support for reunions between separated Korean American families and their loved ones in North Korea, the repatriation of U.S. servicemember remains, people-to-people exchanges, and ending the Korean War. He also co-leads the Lift Sanctions, Save Lives network, and advocates for human-centered sanctions policy. 

He is a member of the National Committee on North Korea, an Advisory Board Member for the Coalition of Families of Korean and Cold War POW/MIAs, an International Advisor to the National Association of Korean Americans, as well as, the founder and primary author of Previously, he worked at World Learning where he administered State Department exchange programs primarily with Iran. 

He has also worked for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Minnesota House of Representatives, and Congresswoman Betty McCollum. Jasper served two assignments in the Peace Corps – Turkmenistan (2008 – 2010) and St Lucia (2013 – 2014) – where he collaborated with foreign ministries to improve local education standards. He holds a master’s in public policy from Duke University and a bachelor’s in global studies, cultural studies, and linguistics from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

Rachel Esplin Odell

Rachel Esplin Odell is a Research Fellow in the East Asia Program at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and an expert in U.S. strategy toward Asia, Chinese foreign policy, and maritime security. She is an author of the recent Quincy Institute report, Toward an Inclusive & Balanced Regional Order: A New U.S. Strategy in East Asia. She received her PhD in political science in 2020 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where her dissertation studied the politics of how countries interpret the international law of the sea. Odell previously worked as a Research Analyst in the Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, co-authoring several policy reports and organizing numerous public forums, government briefings, and Track II workshops. She has also served in the China Affairs bureau of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Odell’s writings have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, War on the Rocks, The National Interest, and The Diplomat, among other publications. She has received fellowships from the International Security Program at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, the National Science Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, Waseda University’s Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, and MIT’s Center for International Studies. Her research on the relationship between maritime power and international law received the Alexander George Award from the Foreign Policy Analysis Section of the International Studies Association. She holds an AB summa cum laude in East Asian Studies with a secondary field in Government from Harvard University and has advanced proficiency in Mandarin Chinese and Spanish.


Yun Sun

Yun Sun is a Senior Fellow and Co-Director of the East Asia Program and Director of the China Program at the Stimson Center. Her expertise is in Chinese foreign policy, U.S.-China relations and China’s relations with neighboring countries and authoritarian regimes.

From 2011 to early 2014, she was a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, jointly appointed by the Foreign Policy Program and the Global Development Program, where she focused on Chinese national security decision-making processes and China-Africa relations. From 2008 to 2011, Yun was the China Analyst for the International Crisis Group based in Beijing, specializing on China’s foreign policy towards conflict countries and the developing world. Prior to ICG, she worked on U.S.-Asia relations in Washington, DC for five years. Yun earned her master’s degree in international policy and practice from George Washington University, as well as an MA in Asia Pacific studies and a BA in international relations from Foreign Affairs College in Beijing.

Jennifer Staats

Jennifer Staats is the director of East and Southeast Asia Programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace. She joined USIP in 2016 as the director of the China Program, and she continues to lead USIP’s work on China and its impact on peace and security around the world. She also oversees USIP’s program in Myanmar, as well as the Institute’s work on Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, and Oceania.

Dr. Staats previously spent several years working in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where she concentrated on policy issues related to Asia. Staats received her doctoral degree from Harvard University, her master’s from Princeton University, and her bachelor’s from the University of the South (Sewanee). She has been named a Council on Foreign Relations term member, Fulbright Scholar, NSEP Boren Fellow, Javits Fellow, Rosenthal Fellow, NCAA Postgraduate Scholar, and Public Intellectuals Program Fellow and member of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.


Michael B. Cerny

Michael B. Cerny is a Master of Philosophy student in Politics (Comparative Government) at the University of Oxford. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from Emory University, where he double majored in Chinese Studies. At Emory, Cerny received the Emory College Language Center’s Excellence in Language Studies award for his research in Beijing, China.

Cerny’s writing has appeared in the American Review of China Studies, The Diplomat,, and the Oxford Political Review. He is currently the assistant to the editor of

Elliot Shuwei Ji

Elliot Shuwei Ji is a Ph.D. student of Politics at Princeton University, concentrating in international politics. Prior to Princeton, Elliot interned at the Brookings Institution China Center, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and Emory’s Center for Law and Social Sciences.

Ji received a Master of Global Affairs from Tsinghua University in 2020 as a Schwarzman Scholar and a B.A. in political science from Emory University in 2019 where he was the recipient of the Robert W. Woodruff Dean’s Achievement Scholarship.