Susan A. Thornton

Visiting Lecturer in Law (spring term) and Senior Fellow, Paul Tsai China Center


Susan A. Thornton is a retired senior U.S. diplomat with almost three decades of experience with the U.S. State Department in Eurasia and East Asia. She is currently a Senior Fellow and Visiting Lecturer in Law at the Yale Law School Paul Tsai China Center. She is also the 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.

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Susan A. Thornton

Contact Information



Education & Curriculum Vitae


M.S., National Defense University, 2010

M.A., Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, 1991

B.A., Bowdoin College, 1985

Courses Taught


  • Contemporary China Research Seminar

Susan A. Thornton is a retired senior U.S. diplomat with almost three decades of experience with the U.S. State Department in Eurasia and East Asia. She is currently a Senior Fellow and Visiting Lecturer in Law at the Yale Law School Paul Tsai China Center. She is also the 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. 

Until July 2018, Thornton was Acting 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. In previous State Department roles, she 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. 

Thornton received her M.A. in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and her B.A. from Bowdoin College in Economics and Russian. She serves on several nonprofit boards and speaks Mandarin and Russian.