December 13, 2017


Thomas J. Christensen
Thomas J. Christensen / courtesy Duke Univ.
Thomas J. Christensen, an international relations scholar and former U.S. State Department official who specializes in Chinese foreign relations, will join SIPA as a professor of international and public affairs in fall 2018.

Christensen, who has served on the faculty of Princeton University since 2003, is currently the William P. Boswell Professor of World Politics of Peace and War at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He also serves as co-director of the Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program, which he will relocate to Columbia and which will be hosted by SIPA.

Dean Merit Janow announced the appointment in a message to the SIPA community, in which she also thanked President Lee C. Bollinger and Provost John C. Coatsworth for their engagement and support.

“Professor Christensen has excelled in three areas of importance to SIPA and the University,” Janow wrote. “He is widely recognized as a leading expert in Chinese foreign relations; as a major scholar of international relations; and for his accomplishments as a senior U.S. policymaker responsible for relations with East Asia.

“Coupled with Columbia’s already strong expertise in China and East Asia, Professor Christensen will help place the University at the forefront of academic and policy-relevant work on contemporary China and its global relations,” she added.

Christensen’s most recent book is The China Challenge: Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power (W.W. Norton, 2016), which was an editors’ choice at the New York Times Book Review and book of the year at Foreign Affairs magazine.

In addition to his career in academia, Christensen served from 2006 to 2008 as deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, with responsibility for relations with China, Taiwan, and Mongolia. continues to hold formal advisory roles in the U.S. government.

A recipient of the State Department’s Distinguished Public Service Award, Christensen is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on a number of advisory and editorial boards.

Christensen received his BA from Haverford College, his MA in international relations from the University of Pennsylvania, and his PhD in Political Science from Columbia University. Earlier in his career he was a faculty member at MIT and, before that, Cornell.