Professor of China Studies at Harvard University and Chair of the Harvard China Fund

“The United States and China 20 years from now, 40 years from now, are still likely to be the most important bilateral relationship in the world.”
- William Kirby

Hari Sreenivasan of PBS NewsHour Interviews William Kirby





WHY HIM, WHY NOW? As the world navigates a global pandemic and the U.S. presidential election looms this fall, many have questioned what these circumstances mean for the future of U.S.-China relations. As someone who’s studied modern Chinese history and the relationship between America and China, Kirby can offer informed predictions.

EXPERTISE China relations past and present, modern China, China’s economic and political development, China’s relations with Europe, history of modern Chinese capitalism, history of freedom in China, the international socialist economy of the 1950s, relations across the Taiwan strait, Chinese business organization


At Harvard, before assuming his current role as a professor of Modern Chinese History and Business Administration, he directed the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and Harvard’s Asia Center. He also served as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences for four years and is a former chair of Harvard’s history department. He is one of the leading Sinologists in the world today. Before coming to Harvard in 1992, he was the dean of University College, the director of Asian Studies, and a history professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

DEGREES Bachelor’s (A.B.) from Dartmouth College Master’s (A.M.) from Harvard University Doctorate (Ph.D.) from Harvard University

MAJOR PUBLICATIONS “The Real Reason Uber Is Giving Up in China,” Harvard Business Review, August 2016 Bill Kirby co-wrote Can China Lead? Reaching the Limits of Power and Growth in 2014 with fellow China experts from Harvard Business School and the Wharton School. The authors argue that although China has experienced significant economic growth in recent decades, it now faces challenges that could shift its political and economic trajectory. They point to China’s lack of accountability and transparency and growing evidence of high-level corruption as factors that’ve made businesspeople increasingly wary of the “China model.” Kirby has also edited or co-edited four books that place modern Chinese issues in an international context (some of the topics: the history of U.S.-China relations, freedom in the modern Chinese world, and China’s relationship with the rest of the world). He’s also written two solo books: State and Economy in Republican China: A Handbook for Scholars (2001) and Germany and Republican China (1984). ARTICLE ABOUT HIM

“William C. Kirby: Is China Ready for Leadership on the Global Stage?,” Harvard Magazine, April 2020 “Q. and A.: William C. Kirby on ‘Can China Lead?’,” The New York Times, June 2014