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Susan L. Shirk

Ho Miu Lam Endowed Chair in China and Pacific Relations;
Chair, 21st Century China Program


(858) 822-4349
Fax: (858) 534-3939

9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0519

Office: #1426


Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1974 (political science)
M.A., University of California, Berkeley, 1968 (Asian studies)
Princeton University, 1965-66 (critical languages program)
B.A., Mount Holyoke College, 1967 (political science)

Programs and Centers

21st Century China Program
The Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation
Korea Regional Concentration Program
China Regional Concentration Program



Susan Shirk is the chair of the 21st Century China Program and Ho Miu Lam Professor of China and Pacific Relations at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS) at UC San Diego. She also is director emeritus of the University of California, Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC), and chair of the IGCC International Advisory Board. 

From 1997-2000, Shirk served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, with responsibility for China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Mongolia. She served as the director of IGCC 1991–1997, research director 2000–2006, and director 2006–2011. 

In 1993, she founded, and continues to lead, the Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue (NEACD), a Track II forum for discussions of security issues among defense and foreign ministry officials and academics from the United States, Japan, China, Russia, and the Koreas.

Shirk's publications include her books, How China Opened Its Door: The Political Success of the PRC's Foreign Trade and Investment Reforms; The Political Logic of Economic Reform in China; Competitive Comrades: Career Incentives and Student Strategies in China; and China: Fragile Superpower. Her edited book, Changing Media, Changing China, was published in 2011. 

Shirk served as a member of the U.S. Defense Policy Board, the Board of Governors for the East-West Center (Hawaii), the Board of Trustees of the U.S.-Japan Foundation, and the Board of Directors of the National Committee on United States-China Relations. She is a member of the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, and an emeritus member of the Aspen Strategy Group. As Senior Director at Albright Stonebridge Group, Shirk assists private sector clients with issues related to China and East Asia.

Current Projects

LA Times Quotes Susan Shirk.

Photo Gallery.

NHK World Interviews Susan Shirk.

Professional Activities

  • Member, world economic forum, Regional Agenda Council on China, 2010
  • Editorial advisory board, Korean Journal of Defense Analysis, 2010
  • Bernard Schwartz Book Award selection committee, the Asia Society, New York City, 2010
  • Alumni nominee, the Corporation Visiting Committee for Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2010
  • Member, The International Advisory Board of the East Asian Institute, 2009
  • Member The Trilateral Commission, 2009
  • Member, advisory committee of the Universities Service Centre for China Studies, 2007
  • Member, UC Santa Barbara Department of Political Science External Review Committee, 2007
  • Member, senior advisory committee, UC School of Global Health, 2007
  • Member, advisory committee, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, 2007
  • Member, advisory committee, Asia Society, 2007
  • Chair, external review, Institute on International Studies, Stanford University, 2004
  • Member, task force on U.S. Korea Policy, Center for International Policy, 2002
  • Member and chair, economics sub group, task force on Chinese military power, Council on Foreign Relations, 2002-2003
  • Editorial board, The American Asian Review 2001-present
  • Organizer and chair, 'Cross Strait Relations After WTO', 30th Sino-American Conference on Contemporary China, IR/PS, 2001
  • Faculty coordinator, IR/PS Dean's Roundtable, 2000-present
  • Advisory committee, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Universities service centre, 2000-present
  • Member and emeritus member, Aspen Strategy Group, 1996-present
  • Editorial board, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, 1996-97
  • Member, board of trustees, U.S.-Japan Foundation, 1995-97
  • Member, Defense Policy Board (advises the U.S. secretary of defense), 1995-97
  • Member, International Institute for Strategic Studies, London, 1995-97
  • Member, Council on Foreign Relations, 1991-present

Research Interests

Articles and Talks



"China's New Media Landscape"
Asia Society, January 6, 2011


"American Hopes: An Agenda for Cooperation That Serves US Interests,"
Global Asia, 5.1, March 2010


"North Korea Inside Out: The Case for Economic Engagement"
Report of an Independent Task Force convened by the Asia Society Center on U.S.-China relations and the University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, December 2009

"The 60th Anniversary of the People's Republic of China:
Examining the Resilience of Communist Party Rule
UCSD-TV, November 2, 2009.

"A Mountain to Climb,"
Hong Kong South China Morning Post, October 28, 2009

Hearing: "The 20th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Sqare Protests: Examining the Significance of the 1989 Demonstrations in China and Implications for U.S. Policy." Congressional-Executive Commision on China, June 4, 2009.

"The Legacy of Tiananmen for Chinese Politics,"
The Huffington Post, Wednesday, June 3, 2009.

"The Stimulus China Needs: Reform the economy to boost consumption,"
The Wall Street Journal Asia, Friday, April 30, 2009 

"Obama to reshape the world? Too soon to tell,"
The Global Times, Thursday, April 30, 2009


“An Evening with Susan Shirk”
Athena Bioscience Group, Del Mar, CA, January 24, 2008


Interview by Harry Kreisler
of the Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley
"Conversations with History"
June 28, 2007

"Media freedom riddle for China"
The Standard, November 5, 2007 

"Voices on Genocide Prevention" interview
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, June 28, 2007

“China: Fragile Superpower”
Naval War College, October 24, 2007

"China Now"

NPR's On Point Radio, October 18, 2007

"How China's Internal Politics Could Derail its Peaceful Rise"
Pasadena, CA, October 17, 2007

"After Hu"
The Wall Street Journal Asia, October 12, 2007


"China's Youth Dance Reluctantly to U.S. Beat"
Boston Globe, November 17, 2005

"Subtle Power Struggle"
Newsweek, International, September 20, 2005

"UCSD Guestbook: Anson Chan with Susan Shirk"
UCSD-TV, June 11, 2005
(watch the interview using RealPlayer)

"China's Rise: The Blueprint"
San Diego Union-Tribune, March 20, 2005


"Is China Losing its Soft Touch"
United Press International, June 26, 2004

"Washington Must Change Cross-Strait Policy Says Expert"
The Staits Time Interactive, June 22, 2004


"The United States Is Marginalizing Itself in Northeast Asia"

UCLA International Institute, May 16, 2003

"Under Global Spotlight, China's New Leaders Have to Reform"
Yale Global, May 12, 2003


Interview by Harry Kreisler
of the Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley
"Conversations with History"  November 8, 2001

Publications of Note

Shirk is the author of How China Opened Its Door: The Political Success of the PRC's Foreign Trade and Investment Reforms and The Political Logic of Economic Reform in China, and editor of Power and Prosperity: Economic and Security Linkages in the Asia Pacific. Previous publications include The Challenge of China and Japan and Competitive Comrades: Career Incentives and Student Strategies in China. Shirk has also written numerous scholarly articles on Chinese politics and foreign policy.

Recent Publications

Shirk, Changing Media, Changing China

    Changing Media, Changing China.

    Oxford University Press, 2010.

Thirty years ago, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) made a fateful decision: to allow newspapers, magazines, television, and radio stations to compete in the marketplace instead of being financed exclusively by the government. The political and social implications of that decision are still unfolding as the Chinese government, media, and public adapt to the new information environment.


Shirk, Fragile Superpower

    China: Fragile Superpower.

    Oxford University Press, 2007.

China today is the world’s fastest growing economy, a dramatic turnaround that alarms many Westerners. But in China: Fragile Superpower, Susan Shirk finds that the real danger lies elsewhere, in the deep insecurity of China's leaders who face a troubling paradox: the more developed and prosperous the country becomes, the more insecure and threatened they feel. Shirk offers invaluable insight into how they think—and what they fear. In this revealing book, readers see the world through the eyes of men like President Hu Jintao and former President Jiang Zemin. Theirs is a regime afraid of its own citizens, and this fear motivates many of their decisions when dealing with the U.S. and other foreign nations. In particular, the fervent nationalism of the Chinese people has made relations with Japan and Taiwan a minefield. Shirk argues that rising powers such as China tend to provoke wars in large part because other countries mishandle them. Unless we understand China’s brittle internal politics and the fears that motivate its leaders, we face the very real possibility of conflict with China. This book provides that understanding.

Reviews and Book Talks

"Books of the Year: My China syndrome"
Denise Kingsmill, managementtoday.com December 1, 2007

China: Fragile Superpower
Book Review, KWR Advisor, October 29, 2007

“China: Fragile Superpower”
Naval War College, October 24, 2007

The Wednesday Club Luncheon:
"China: Fragile Superpower: How the Chinese Leaders Think & What They Fear."
Santa Monica, CA, October 16, 2007

"Bound to China"
Washington Post Book Reviews, August 26, 2007

China: Fragile Superpower  Book Review
Archie McKee, U.S.-China Review, Vol. XXXI, No. 3, Summer 2007

Order China: Fragile Superpower online at Amazon.com