Douglas Paal is vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He was on the National Security Council staffs of Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush between 1986 and 1993 as director of Asian Affairs and then as senior director and special assistant to the president. He was director of the American Institute in Taiwan from 2002 to 2006. Earlier in his career, Paal held positions in the policy planning staff at the State Department, as a senior analyst for the CIA, and at US embassies in Singapore and Beijing.
He was intrigued to find out why the US had ended up having China as an "enemy". "China's a great big puzzle. It gets you very interested. Once you start getting involved, you don't want to give up," he said. With that commitment, he went on to study Chinese language and Asian history at university, despite the opposition from his family.