David Lai joined the department of strategy and international security studies at the Air War College in April 1999. He earned his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Colorado in 1997. His teaching and research interests are in international relations theory, war and peace studies, comparative foreign policy, Asia and Chinese politics.
Lai was the first native Chinese to join the faculty at the Air War College. Growing up in Guangzhou, China (better known in the United States as Canton), Lai experienced the turbulent years of the People’s Republic. He witnessed the Cultural Revolution, spent two years in the countryside after high school as one of millions of teenagers in China to receive “re-education” from the peasants, and two years as a worker at a major iron and steel plant.
As the Cultural Revolution ended and with the reopening of universities in China in 1978, Lai passed the Chinese national higher education entrance exam to become a college student at the Guangzhou Institute of Foreign Languages. Upon his graduation in 1982, Lai was recruited to the Chinese Foreign Ministry as a distinguished member of the college-educated diplomats. In 1985, Lai came to the United States as a vice consul and served for four years at the Chinese Consulate in Chicago. In 1989, Lai came to pursue his Ph.D. at the University of Colorado. Since joining the Air War College, Lai has enjoyed the great opportunities to share his knowledge of China and its foreign policy behavior with the students and faculty members.