HERspectives: Julia Chang Bloch

Image of Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch courtesy of The American Academy of Diplomacy

 

Julia Chang Bloch is a Chinese American diplomat, and the first U.S. Ambassador of Asian descent. Born in China in 1942, Bloch immigrated to the United States at age nine, and grew up in San Francisco. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Communications and Public Policy from the University of California, Berkeley in 1964, and a master’s degree in Government and East Asia Regional Studies from Harvard University in 1967.

Her extensive career in international affairs and government service began in 1964 as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sabah, Malaysia. In an interview for Youku.com, Bloch shared her motivations for pursuing international affairs: “I wanted to see the world, I wanted to go back to Asia to see whether I was ‘Asian’ or ‘American.'”

Beginning in 1971 she was a staffer for the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, working in multiple roles. From 1981 to 1988, Bloch served at the U.S. Agency for International Development as Assistant Administrator for Food for Peace and Voluntary Assistance and as Assistant Administrator for Asia and the Near East – positions appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate (American Academy of Diplomacy). In 1989, she was appointed ambassador to Nepal by President George H. W. Bush, making her the first Asian American to hold such rank in American history. “It was an ideal post for me,” she said in an interview, “I had been training all my life for the job.” She held this post until 1993, when she left government service for the corporate sector, becoming Group Executive Vice President at Bank of America.

From 1996-1998, she moved into philanthropy, serving as President and CEO of the United States-Japan Foundation. Beginning in 1998, she shifted her focus to China, first becoming Visiting Professor at the Institute for International Relations and Executive Vice Chairman of the American Studies Center at Peking University, and subsequently affiliating with Fudan University in Shanghai (Council of American Ambassadors).

Currently, she is the Founder and President of the U.S.- China Education Trust, a nonprofit organization that promotes U.S.- China relations through education and exchange for next-generation leaders. Ambassador Bloch and the U.S.-China Education Trust partnered with Meridian in 2018 to discuss the need for continued international exchange as a means for public diplomacy amid strained U.S.-China relations.