Malcolm Riddell

Founder | CHINADebate

Malcolm Riddell

As investment banker, diplomat, lawyer, Harvard academic, and CIA spy, I have been involved with China for almost 40 years. And even longer, if you go back to my fascination with China that began after my grandparents returned from working on land reform in Taiwan when I was seven. I am one of the fortunate ones who has been able to devote my life and work to the thing that interests me most.

My China career began in 1978, when I joined the CIA. I was a case officer - a spy - in China Operations. I also qualified as Chinese Language Officer, and trained as a paramilitary officer as part of the Agency's 'Special Operations Group' reserve. At all times, I held Top Secret/Codeword clearances.

I left the CIA in 1984 to earn an MBA at Harvard Business School and to complete my Master of International Affairs at the School of International & Public Affairs at Columbia University.

After graduation, I worked at Salomon Brothers before starting my own boutique investment bank, RiddellTseng, in Taiwan in 1988. With a strong first-mover advantage, we grew quickly and gained a client list of leading international insurance and asset management firms, such as MetLife and Fidelity.

When China's financial sector began to open in the early 1990s, we continued to offer our clients the same advisory and dealmaking services on the Mainland.

RiddellTseng is now about to celebrate our 40th anniversary of advising clients on China.

In 2012, I started a new firm, CHINADebate. CHINADebate aims to bring together top China experts and decision makers - both in-person and online with CHINADebateTV - for discussions of the the issues that inform decisions about China and the global businesses, markets and economies that feel China's impact. And five years later, I created CHINADebateTV, an online video platform that presents the China analyses from leading experts around the world.

Now, let me fill in a few blanks.

First, I am also a lawyer, licensed to practice in Florida since 1976, Board Certified in International Law, and a former Vice Chair of the International Law Board Certification Committee.

Second, besides the CIA, I served in government as a U.S. Delegate to the UN, where I represented the U.S. at the Sixth (international law) Committee and advised the Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick at the UN Security Council. I also served as Undersecretary of State for International Affairs in my home state of Florida. 

Finally, I am a Life Member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

My education and academic activities are outlined below.

Education and Academics

My degrees

Before joining the CIA, I earned Ia juris doctor degree from Stetson University College of Law in my home state of Florida, and later did post-graduate studies at Harvard Law School’s East Asian Legal Studies Program. My other graduate work includes:

Harvard Business School, MBAColumbia University, Master of International AffairsHarvard Graduate School of Design, AMDP in Real Estate

At Peking University, I have been...

Senior Visiting Fellow at Peking University Law SchoolMember of the Advisory Board at the Center for Real Estate Law

But mostly I continued my academic work at Harvard, which has included...

Harvard Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Associate-in-Research Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Asia Fellow Harvard China Fund Academic Committee, member 

At the Harvard Graduate School of Design, I brought together my experience and my academic work to serve as Academic Leader and instructor for China real estate programs. See my Harvard Faculty & Instructor profile.

In the Media

China Expert Discusses U.S.- China Relations"Malcolm Riddell, a former spy for the CIA in China, He speaks with NBC News’ Kerry Sanders about U.S.-Chinese relations" NBC News

What Level of Reform Will Come Out of China?Malcolm Riddell, President of RiddellTseng and founder of CHINADebate, on what to expect from the Chinese Communist Party's Third Plenary session this weekend. 

Nov 9, 2013, BizAsiaAmerica.

Malcolm Riddell HuffPost Live Interview on Hot China Issues

Al Jazeera: The Stream - China's class war?With a fast-growing economy and rising class divisions, Chinese elites increasingly find themselves under an online microscope.

A China-Focused Boutique Investment Bank

Celebrating More Than 25 Years'

Advising Leading International Financial Services Companies

On China Business & Investment

About CHINADebate

Since 2012, CHINADebate Members have been making more informed China and China-impacted decisions from discussions with leading China experts and their peers at the Harvard Club of New York.

What People are Saying about CHINADebate

John Holden

Associate Dean & Professor, Peking University

"What distinguishes CHINADebate from other fora is that it brings together a highly productive mix of people with business, policy, and academic expertise for in-depth, practical-oriented discussions ... The sessions are lively, engaging and filled with useful information and insight."

Bill Daly

Managing Director, BlackRock

"CHINADebate is 'must have.' "

Jim Hodge

President, Permal Asset Management

"I find CHINADebate invaluable."

Grace Gu

Portfolio Manager, Graham Capital Management

"Why is CHINADebate special for me?  Nowadays, almost every research shop produces China contents.  But few have the depth of local expertise, broad spectrum of perspectives, uncensored insights, and interactive nature of the conversations to rival that of Malcolm's CHINADebate offerings." 

Jay Epstien

Partner, DLA Piper Chair, U.S. Real Estate Practice | Co-Chair, Global Real Estate Practice

"CHINADebate is a terrific information resource, and more, about what is happening in China. "

Karin Shewer

Chairman of the BoardReal Estate Capital Partners

"CHINADebate offers thought provoking, insightful conversations with very knowledgeable experts in their respective fields in a small group environment.  These Roundtables offer invaluable information for anyone interested in China."  

Dr. Ron Schramm

Professor Emeritus, Columbia University

"CHINADebate is a fantastic forum. The best thing on China I have attended."