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Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch

Citizen Diplomat: Former Ambassador Highlights the Need for Person-to-Person Exchange

Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch
U.S. Diplomat and Former U.S. Ambassador to Nepal
1997 Fulbright 50th Anniversary Distinguished Fellow to Singapore and Malaysia

Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch speaking at an event with two young people at the table

Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch (center) welcomes fellows and their mentors to the 2017 International Affairs Fellowship Graduation event, on behalf of the Council of American Ambassadors.

For Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch, diplomacy is a calling. Bridging cultural divides since childhood, she learned valuable lessons from her diplomat father, Chang Fuyun, the first Chinese graduate of Harvard Law School. As an expert in international affairs, she believes that one of the most powerful tools for increasing mutual understanding is soft power, achieved not through official diplomatic channels, but through person-to-person exchange. A Fulbright 50th Anniversary Distinguished Fellow to Singapore and Malaysia, Ambassador Bloch embodies the Fulbright Program’s mission to connect people of different nations and transcend cultural and political borders for common goals. 

Ambassador Bloch’s career in international affairs began in 1964 as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sabah, Malaysia, and culminated in her appointment as Ambassador to Nepal in 1989, becoming the first American diplomat of Asian descent to hold this rank. As a Chinese immigrant who arrived in the United States at the age of nine, Ambassador Bloch knows first-hand the benefits of understanding two different cultures and nations. Her life’s work has focused on creating connections between young people around the world and shaping future leaders through educational and cultural exchange. “Experience tells us that education and exchange are effective tools, bar none, for building mutual understanding,” says Ambassador Bloch.

Ambassador Bloch has held a number of public service positions. She worked at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as Assistant Administrator of Food for Peace and Voluntary Assistance and as Assistant Administrator for Asia and the Near East. She also served as Chief Minority Counsel to a U.S. Senate Select Committee; as a U.S. Senate professional staff member; as Deputy Director of the Office of African Affairs at the U.S. Information Agency; as a Fellow of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government; and as Associate of the Program on U.S.-Japan Relations of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. 

Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch (center) and Gish Jen (second from left), acclaimed Chinese American writer, speak with scholars and students at USCET's American Cultural Center at Beijing Foreign Studies University in 2012
Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch (center) and Gish Jen (second from left), acclaimed Chinese American writer, speak with scholars and students at USCET’s American Cultural Center at Beijing Foreign Studies University in 2012. Photo: Provided to China Daily

After 25 years in government service, Ambassador Bloch became Group Executive Vice President at the Bank of America in 1993 and served as President and CEO of the United States-Japan Foundation from 1996 to 1998. During this time, she was a 1997 Fulbright 50th Anniversary Distinguished Fellow, using her skills at the United States Information Service branches in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Singapore. Ambassador Bloch says of her Fulbright experience: 

“The Fulbright Program offers personal cross-cultural experiences that can tear away misperceptions, build bridges, and create global perspectives needed for world peace and understanding. As a Fulbright 50th Anniversary Distinguished Fellow, I had the opportunity to return to Malaysia over thirty years after serving there as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Witnessing the immense development of the country and touched by so much empathy from the Malaysian Fulbrighters I met, I became a staunch advocate of the transformative powers of international exchange for the rest of life.”

Subsequently, Ambassador Bloch founded the U.S.-China Education Trust (USCET), a nonprofit organization working in China to promote U.S.-China relations through education and exchange. “USCET is a direct outgrowth of my firm and unshakable belief in international education and exchange,” says Ambassador Bloch. She serves as USCET’s Founding President and maintains affiliations and posts at various prestigious Chinese universities.

For Ambassador Bloch, there is nothing more critical than educational exchange. “We must take every opportunity we have to learn about each other, as this will lead to better understanding […] If we hope to transcend endless conflict, war, and misunderstanding, we must embrace education and exchange with open hearts and a combined sense of purpose.”