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Graphic of banner with speaker and blurred background photography, with text noting the named lecture event for EllsworthRobert F. Ellsworth Memorial Lecture Series

The Robert F. Ellsworth Memorial Lecture is named after Ambassador Robert "Bob" Ellsworth (1926-2011), a highly respected public servant, a patriot and a national treasure. He had a diverse and illustrious career as a lawyer, politician, statesman, diplomat, strategist and investor. He was also a scholar who fought for the advancement of American leadership, security and principles.

How the West Should Meet the China Challenge
March 16, 2023 | Video
Senior Fellow at Yale’s Paul Tsai China Center and former acting Assistant Secretary of State Susan Thornton tackled the question of what we should do to manage the transition to a post-Cold War order with China. Is it too late for a good outcome?

Download the speech (PDF)

Past Ellsworth Lectures

Since 2013, this series has become an important forum in San Diego for discussing affairs in the Asia Pacific region, drawing audiences from the academy and beyond. Delivered by seasoned statesmen and experts, these remarks and themes are still relevant to the dialogue surrounding U.S.-China relations today.

"Defining the Great Global Decoupling"

Eighth annual Robert F. Ellsworth Memorial Lecture
Nov. 4, 2019
Trade tensions and the deeper conflicts on technology, economy and geopolitics can lead to the possibility of China and America decoupling — creating two distinct, rival economic, technological and political systems with their own spheres of influences. In the Eighth Robert F. Ellsworth Memorial Lecture, former Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd explained the arguments by American and Chinese hawks in this current dynamic and where they may take U.S.-China relations.

Download the speech (PDF)


"U.S.-China Relations in an Age of Adaptation"

2019 Ellsworth lecture

Seventh annual Robert F. Ellsworth Memorial Lecture

Daniel Russel

Speaker: Daniel Russel is the Vice President for International Security and Diplomacy at the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI). A career member of the Senior Foreign Service at the U.S. Department of State, he most recently served as the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and as the White House as Special Assistant to the President and National Security Council (NSC) Senior Director for Asian Affairs. During his tenure there, he helped formulate President Obama’s strategic rebalance to the Asia Pacific region, including efforts to strengthen alliances, deepen U.S. engagement with multilateral organizations, and expand cooperation with emerging powers in the region.

Date: June 3, 2019
Location: The Great Hall, International House, UC San Diego


As the U.S.-China rivalry roils the region, there is a new dynamic underway in Asia that goes beyond the struggle for primacy between Washington, D.C. and Beijing. Despite an emerging pattern of increasing deference to China’s policy preference, few countries in the region are fully “bandwagoning” with China. Instead, Asia is adapting to a less dependable America, and a stronger and more assertive China, through new arrangements and institutions. This structural diversification process will impact both U.S. and Chinese interests in the long term and underscores that the next U.S. administration, regardless of party or policy, will encounter a more challenging and altered environment in this crucial region.


“The Return of Religion and China's Future”

Ellsworth lecture 2018

Sixth annual Robert F. Ellsworth Memorial Lecture

Ian Johnson

Speaker: Ian Johnson is a Pulitzer Prize-winner, and has written for the Wall Street Journal, The New York Review of Books, and The New York Times. His latest book, “The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao,” explores the explosion of faith and what it means to be Chinese and how to live an ethical life in a country that is searching for new guideposts.

Date: March 21, 2018
Location: Robinson Auditorium, UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy


Following a century of violent anti-religious campaigns, China is now filled with new temples, churches and mosques — as well as cults, sects and politicians trying to harness religion for their own ends. What does the return of religion mean for the future of the world’s newest superpower? Acclaimed journalist Ian Johnson addressed this question in the Sixth Robert F. Ellsworth Memorial Lecture. 

Materials and Media

Ian Johnson chronicles the rise of religion in China
March 27, 2018 | By Rachel Hommel | GPS News
GPS’s 21st Century China Center welcomed Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ian Johnson for its sixth annual Robert F. Ellsworth Memorial Lecture

“China’s Growing Protectionism and the U.S. Response”

2017 Ellsworth lecture photos

Fifth annual Robert F. Ellsworth Memorial Lecture

Speaker: Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky, Senior International Partner, WilmerHale

Date: March 7, 2017
Time: 4:30-6 p.m.
Location: The Great Hall, UC San Diego


In the Fifth Annual Robert F. Ellsworth Memorial Lecture, Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky addressed China’s growing protectionism and how the U.S. is responding. 

China’s historic reform and opening has been the global economic story of our lifetimes, catapulting China’s economy, fueling global growth and opening vast opportunity to foreign enterprises. But in recent years, China’s economy has slowed markedly due to serious structural and social impediments, necessitating a shift in its growth model. Rather than embark upon further reform and opening as a means of recharging its economy, China has instead implemented a series of discriminatory, zero-sum policies that put foreign companies at a sharp competitive disadvantage. This approach is increasingly generating tensions with China’s trading partners – raising the question of how the U.S. and the international business community should respond.

Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky

Speaker Bio

Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky is a senior international partner at WilmerHale and is one of the most influential lawyers in the U.S. She advises multinationals and private equity firms on their global market access, investment and acquisition strategies, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and served in President Bill Clinton’s Cabinet as the U.S. Trade Representative, chief trade policymaker and trade negotiator. Among the agreements negotiated by her were China’s historic World Trade Organization agreement, and landmark global agreements in financial services, telecommunications, technology products and cyberspace.



"The Changing Geopolitics of East Asia"

2016 Ellsworth Lecture photosFourth annual Robert F. Ellsworth Memorial Lecture

Speaker: Ambassador J. Stapleton (Stape) Roy, Distinguished Scholar andFounding Director Emeritus, Kissinger Institute on China and the United States

Date: March 28, 2016 
Time: 5:30 – 7
Location: Atkinson Pavilion, UC San Diego Faculty Club


The fourth annual Robert F. Ellsworth Memorial Lecture featured a discussion of “The Changing Geopolitics of East Asia” with Ambassador J. Stapleton (Stape) Roy, Distinguished Scholar and Founding Director Emeritus, Kissinger Institute on China and the United States.

Stapleton Roy’s ambassadorial assignments included Singapore, China and Indonesia. In this talk, he discussed the implications for the U.S. of the gradual erosion in its air and sea dominance in the Western Pacific caused by China's rapid military modernization. He also examined the factors that limit China's ability to dominate the region, including the difficulties China's leaders encounter in seeking to preserve the essentials of an authoritarian system in a country that is too open to the outside world, both politically and economically, to make this feasible over time.

Ambassador J. Stapleton RoySpeaker Bio

Ambassador J. Stapleton (Stape) Roy is a distinguished scholar and founding director emeritus of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. Stape Roy was born in China and spent much of his youth there during the upheavals of World War II and the communist revolution, where he watched the battle for Shanghai from the roof of the Shanghai American School. He joined the U.S. Foreign Service immediately after graduating from Princeton in 1956, retiring 45 years later with the rank of Career Ambassador, the highest in the service. Read his full bio online.

Materials and Media

Text from the lecture (PDF)

"U.S.-China Economic Relationship: Opportunities and Prospects"

Third annual Robert F. Ellsworth Memorial LectureView photos

Speaker: Robert D. Hormats, vice chair of Kissinger Associates Inc. and former under secretary of state for Economic, Energy and Environmen tal Affairs

Date: March 2, 2015
Time: 5:30 - 7 p.m.
Location: The Great Hall, UC San Diego


The third annual Robert F. Ellsworth Memorial Lecture featured a discussion of United States-China relations with Robert D. Hormats, currently the vice chair of Kissinger Associates Inc. and former under secretary of state for Economic, Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Mr. Hormats has worked extensively in Western Europe, China, India, Russia, the Middle East and South East Asia. His areas of expertise and experience include international trade and investment, intellectual property, foreign investment in the U .S., protection of trade secrets and global energy issues.

In his lecture, he discussed China's foreign policy under Xi Jinping, as well as the challenges and opportunities faced by the U.S. as China's influence abroad continues to expand.

Robert HormatsSpeaker Bio

Robert Hormats is vice chair of Kissinger Associates Inc., a New York-based strategic international consulting firm that assesses and navigates emerging market geopolitical and macroeconomic risk. Previously, he served as under secretary of state for Economic, Energy and Environmental Affairs from September 2009 to July 2013.

This event was cosponsored by the Fudan-UC Center on Contemporary China with the International Affairs Group, UC San Diego.

Materials and Media


"China's Current Challenges and US-China Relations"

Second annual Robert F. Ellsworth Memorial LectureView photos

Speaker: Ambassador Clark T. Randt, Jr., former U.S. Ambassador to the People's Republic of China

Date: May 6, 2014
Time: 5 - 6:30 p.m.
Location: The Great Hall, UC San Diego


China and its new leadership are at an important domestic policy crossroads just as the risk profile of their neighborhood in Northeast Asia is spiking. Ambassador Clark T. Randt, Jr. discussed these challenges and risks, and their importance for United States-China relations.

Ambassador Clark T. Randt, Jr.Speaker Bio

Ambassador Randt is the longest-serving United States Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China. He is a diplomat, lawyer and businessperson with more than 30 years of direct experience in Asia. Randt was nominated by President George W. Bush, confirmed by the Senate and sworn into office as ambassador in July 2001. He served in the post until January 2009.

Randt graduated from Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in 1968 and received his law degree from the University of Michigan in 1975. He also attended Harvard Law School where he was awarded the East Asia Legal Studies Traveling Fellowship to China. Randt serves on the boards of UPS and Qualcomm, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

"Obama and China’s Rise: An Insider’s Account of America’s Asia Strategy"

The Inaugural Robert F. Ellsworth Memorial Lecture(PDF)The Inaugural Robert F. Ellsworth Memorial Lecture

Speaker: Dr. Jeffrey A. Bader, Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution

Date: May 12, 2013
Time: 5:15 - 7 p.m.
Location: The Great Hall, UC San Diego


Dr. Bader provided an overview of the Obama administration’s efforts to develop stable relations with China while improving relationships with key partners who are worried about Beijing’s new assertiveness. Bader discussed what steps were taken and interpreted what it meant—first during the Obama campaign, and then for the administration. He provided an illuminating backstage view of the formulation and execution of American foreign policy as well as a candid assessment of both.

Jeffrey Bader

Speaker Bio

Jeffrey Bader is a senior fellow in the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. From 2009 until 2011, Bader was special assistant to the president of the United States for national security affairs at the National Security Council. In that capacity, he was the principal advisor to President Obama on Asia. Bader served from 2005 to 2009 as the director of the China Initiative and subsequently as the first director of the John L. Thornton China Center. His latest book, "Obama and China’s Rise: An Insider’s Account of America’s Asia Strategy," was published by Brookings Institution Press in March 2012.