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William H. Overholt

Senior Research Fellow, Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business & Government, Harvard; Author, China’s Crisis of Success

Travels From:
Massachusetts
Fee Range:
$15,000 - $25,000

Dr William H Overholt is a fellow at the Asia Global Institute and has been a Senior Fellow at Harvard since 2008. From 2013-2015 he was also Senior Fellow and then President of the Fung Global Institute in Hong Kong. From 2002-2008 he was Distinguished Chair and Director of the RAND Corporation’s Center for Asia Pacific Policy. He served as Asia regional Head of Strategy and Economics for Nomura from 1998 to 2001. Before that, he was Managing Director and regional Head of Research at Bank Boston Singapore. During 18 years at Bankers Trust, he managed a country risk team in New York from 1980 to 1984 and then served as regional strategist in Hong Kong. At Hudson Institute, 1971-1979 he directed studies for the U.S. Department of State, National Security Council, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Council on International Economic Policy.

Dr Overholt is author or co-author of seven books, including Renminbi Rising: The Emergence of a New Global Monetary System (2015); Asia, America and the Transformation of Geopolitics (2008); The Rise of China (1993); Political Risk (1982); and (with William Ascher) Strategic Planning and Forecasting (1983). He is principal co-author of: Asia’s Nuclear Future (1976) and The Future of Brazil (1978). With Zbigniew Brzezinski, he founded the semi-annual Global Assessment in 1976 and edited it until 1988.

Dr Overholt received his BA from Harvard and his PhD from Yale.

Featured Videos

William Overholt: "China’s Crisis of Success”

China's Crisis of Success: Book Talk with Dr. William O ...

Speaker Resources

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  •  William H. Overholt
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William H. Overholt has been a Senior Research Fellow in Harvard’s Asia Center and its Kennedy School of Government since 2008. During 2013-15 he also served as Senior Fellow and President of the Fung Global Institute in Hong Kong. His career includes 16 years doing policy research at think tanks, ten years at Harvard University, and 21 years running investment bank research teams.

Previously he held the Asia Policy Distinguished Research Chair at RAND’s California headquarters and was Director of the Center for Asia Pacific Policy; concurrently he was Visiting Professor at Shanghai Jiaodong University and, earlier, Distinguished Visiting Professor at Korea’s Yonsei University. During 21 years in investment banking, he served as Head of Strategy and Economics at Nomura’s regional headquarters in Hong Kong from 1998 to 2001, and as Managing Director and Head of Research at Bank Boston's regional headquarters in Singapore. During 18 years at Bankers Trust, he ran a country risk team in New York from 1980 to 1984, then was regional strategist and Asia research head based in Hong Kong from 1985 to 1998.

At Hudson Institute from 1971 to 1979, Dr. Overholt directed planning studies for the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of State, National Security Council, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Council on International Economic Policy. As Director of Hudson Research Services, he also did strategic planning for corporations.

Dr. Overholt is the author or principal co-author of nine books, including China’s Crisis of Success (Cambridge University Press, 2018); Renminbi Rising: The Emergence of a New Global Monetary System (Wiley, 2016) and Asia, America and the Transformation of Geopolitics (Cambridge University Press, 2007); The Rise of China (W.W. Norton, 1993), which won the Mainichi News/Asian Affairs Research Center Special Book Prize; Political Risk (Euromoney, 1982); (with William Ascher) Strategic Planning and Forecasting (John Wiley, 1983). He is principal co-author of: Asia's Nuclear Future (Westview Press, 1976); The Future of Brazil (Westview Press, 1978); and North Korea: Peace or Nuclear War (Harvard, forthcoming). With Zbigniew Brzezinski, he founded the periodical Global Assessment in 1976 and edited it until 1988.

Dr. Overholt serves on numerous boards and advisory boards. He has been a consultant on strategic planning and foreign affairs to many corporations, banks and government departments. He has served as political advisor to several of Asia's and Africa’s major political figures at turning points in their history and has done consulting projects for the Korea Development Institute, Korea's National Defense College, the Philippine Ministry of Agrarian Reform, and Thailand's Ministry of Universities.

Dr. Overholt received his B.A. (magna, 1968) from Harvard and his Master of Philosophy (1970) and Ph.D. (1972) from Yale.

Over the past four decades, China has overcome significant political and economic challenges through reform and opening, but its successes have brought new, increasingly complex challenges. William Overholt, Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s Asia Center, has studied China’s rise and concludes that China can no longer rely on existing methods of development and reform. Instead, he says China must undertake a re-invention of its politics and economics to solve pressing challenges like inequality, corruption, environmental degradation, and globalization. In his new book China’s Crisis of Success, Dr. Overholt presents these findings and argues that Xi Jinping’s political strategy is the riskiest of any contemporary national leader, and that this strategy could result in growth, stagnation, or a serious crisis.


The U.S. must learn to accept China as an equal partner, with a right to coexist and compete while maintaining a different social system.  China must escape its adolescence as a power. Today China uses infant industry arguments to protect its banks even though it has four of the world’s ten largest banks. It claims special privileges as a developing nation while its leaders are proclaiming that it is a great power ready to change the international system. It behaves like the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea, grabbing everything it can, even though it is a big power with a responsibility for maintaining a stable system. China must accept the burdens of maturity.  During this talk, Dr. Overholt discusses what steps must be taken for these two countries to work towards a strong economic and peaceful future.


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