Susan A. Thornton 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. 

She was a senior U.S. diplomat with almost 30 years of experience with the U.S. State Department in Eurasia and East Asia, having 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. Previous Foreign Service assignments include Deputy Chief of Mission to the U.S. Embassy in Turkmenistan., Deputy Director of the Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs at the State Department in Washington, Economic Unit Chief in the Office of Korean Affairs, and overseas postings in Beijing, Chengdu, Yerevan and Almaty. Until July 2018, Thornton was acting as 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. 

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