J. Stapleton Roy is the Founding Director of the Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China and the United States. He was born in Nanjing in 1935 and graduated from Princeton University in 1956. As Deputy Director of the US Liaison Office in late-1970s China, he participated in the secret negotiations leading to the normalization of Sino-US relations. He served as US Ambassador to China from 1991 to 1995 and as Assistant Secretary of State between 1999 and 2000, retiring as Career Ambassador – the highest rank in the US Foreign Service.
On the door to Stapleton Roy’s office is a quote from Mao Zedong, “There is great disorder under heaven, and the situation is excellent.” Roy burst into laughter when he admitted that that was one of his favorite mottos. Even in his 80s, Roy continues to frequent his office every day at the Wilson Center, less than a mile away from the White House, to observe the great changes taking place in American politics and international affairs.
Born in Nanjing in 1935, Roy grew up at a time of “great disorder”. He spent the first 15 years of his life traveling with his family between China and the United States. He survived Japanese air raids in Chengdu; accompanied American soldiers in mountainous areas; and took his final exams in Shanghai with fighter planes circling above. All those unique and unusual experiences cultivated in him a deep-rooted interest in China, which would grow into a life-long career in the Foreign Service.
Stapleton Roy with Deng Xiaoping [Photo: Courtesy of Stapleton Roy]
Roy’s diplomatic life also entailed a series of “disorderly” periods. In the 1970s, he participated in secret negotiations towards the normalization of Sino-US diplomatic relations. In the early 1990s, he became US Ambassador to China when bilateral relations hit a historic low. As a firsthand witness to the behind-the-scenes events of our bilateral history, he is especially appreciative of the fact that China and the US managed to find mutual benefits while pursuing their own interests. He hopes that the two countries can understand better each other’s ambitions and establish a positive relationship as two strong and successful countries.
(Video source: Shanghai Institute of American Studies)