Tom Gold is professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. He started studying Chinese on a dare in the 1960s and got hooked. He has lived, taught, and studied in Taiwan and mainland China, and was in the first group of American exchange students to study in China, starting in February 1979. The theme running through much of his research has been the emergence of the individual from traditional and modern forms of authoritarianism in East Asia, as seen in the rise of private entrepreneurship, the utilization of guanxi (personal connections) to build one's own networks, popular culture, nongovernmental organizations, civil society, and democratization. Recent edited volumes include Social Connections in China and Laid-Off Workers in a Workers' State: Unemployment with Chinese Characteristics.
Gold is very active on boards of organizations working to improve understanding of and relations with East Asia, particularly the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and the Asia Society of Northern California. He is also executive director of the Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies, a consortium of 14 American universities which administers an advanced Chinese language program based at Tsinghua University in Beijing. In addition, Gold is a charter board member of the East Bay College Fund, a nonprofit organization that provides fellowships and mentors for graduates of Oakland public high schools who attend four-year colleges or universities.
After receiving his BA in Chinese studies from Oberlin College, Gold earned his MA in East Asian studies and PhD in sociology from Harvard. He and his wife have two daughters.