The Role of Chinese Students in America – A conversation with former students from China

As Chinese international students have become a focal point of rising U.S.-China tensions, some Americans contend that the risks of educating students from China outweigh the benefits. The voices of those who have lived the Chinese student experience in America are essential to this debate, yet often overlooked. To add this personal perspective, USCET has assembled a panel of former Chinese students, all now successful Americans making significant contributions in their chosen fields. In addition to viewing this issue through their own experiences, our conversation will draw on Three Decades of Chinese Students in America, 1991-2021, a survey report released this fall by USCET and the China Data Lab at UC San Diego. Join us as we put a human face on the the role of Chinese students in America!

Panelists and their degrees in the U.S.:

  • Min Fan, Executive Director, US Heartland China Association (B.A. in Art 1997, M.B.A. 2002)
  • Dawn Li, President, Data and Analytic Solutions (M.S. in Management Information Systems 1997, Ph.D. Interdisciplinary Studies 1996)
  • Yawei Liu, Professor and Director of The China Program at The Carter Center (M.A. 1989, Ph.D. 1996 in US History)
  • Yi Zheng, Professor of Sustainable Energy at Northeastern University (M.S. 2011, Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering 2015)


Min Fan joined the United States Heartland China Association (USHCA) as its Executive Director in 2020 after a successful career as an innovation leader in a large multi-national technology company, a mentor in the Colorado startup ecosystem, and a nonprofit leader. As the executive director, Min is responsible for the strategic planning, program execution, and partner/donor relationship management of USHCA. Min Fan studied at Peking University before completing her graduate education at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Dawn Li is an educator, entrepreneur, and writer. With over 50 years of her life divided almost equally between China and the U.S., she navigates two distinct cultures, embracing eastern traditions and western ideals. She manages a successful small data analytics business and teaches Daoist arts like Tai Chi and Qigong. She studied in the U.S. as an international student from China from 1990 to 1996. Dawn’s study of literature and information technology allow her to harmonize the realms of creative arts and science and technology. Her book of poetry, Song of a Lotus Leaf (Precocity Press, 2020), intricately weaves her experience with Chinese sensibility.

Yawei Liu is senior advisor for China at The Carter Center and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is also the associate director of the China Research Center in Atlanta and an adjunct professor of Political Science at Emory University. He joined the Carter Center in 1998 and became its China Program director in 2005. The founding editor of, he also launched the U.S.-China Perception Monitor in 2014. Yawei earned his B.A. in English literature from Xi’an Foreign Languages Institute (1982), M.A. in recent Chinese history from the University of Hawaii (1989) and Ph.D. in American History from Emory University (1996).

Yi Zheng is a tenured professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and Director of the Nano Energy Laboratory at Northeastern University in Boston, and founder of the cleantech start-up, Planck Energies. He received his Ph.D. and M.S. from Columbia University and B.S. from Tsinghua University (Beijing). Prof. Zheng has published over 80 journal papers, filed nine patents, and secured research grants from sources including NSF, NIH, NASA, DARPA, and the U.S. Air Force. His current research aims to address climate change and global challenges in energy and water scarcity. His awards include the ASTFE Early Career Researcher Award, NSF CAREER Award, and the NASA Glenn Faculty Fellowship among others.


Madelyn Ross became president of the US-China Education Trust in 2022. Before joining USCET she was associate director of China Studies and executive director of SAIS China at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. She also was the director of China initiatives at George Mason University and began her career at the US-China Business Council, where she was editor of The China Business Review. She has a B.A. from Princeton University and an M.A. from Columbia University and did graduate work at Fudan University in Shanghai in 1979-1980.