United States Heartland China Association


USHCA Leadership


Bob Holden - Chairman And CEO

Bob Holden served as Missouri’s 53rd Governor, 2001-2005. Prior to being elected Governor, Holden served two terms as Missouri State Treasurer and three terms as a Missouri State Representative. Bob Holden has been in public service his entire adult life. In addition to holding elective office, Holden worked for State Treasurers James I. Spainhower and Mel Carnahan, United States Senator Thomas F. Eagleton, and Congressman Richard A. Gephardt. During Governor Holden's term in office, he chaired the Midwest Governors Association; opened Missouri’s first trade office in China; created Missouri’s first Hispanic Outreach Committee; moved Missouri from 41st to 5th in terms of women in leadership positions; appointed over 200 African Americans to prominent leadership roles; established the state's first Youth Cabinet; and built the first LEED certified state office building in Missouri. Bob Holden is currently the Missouri Co-Chair for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, and is an Executive Board member of the Missouri State NAACP Chapter. After leaving office in 2005, Holden founded the Holden Public Policy Forum and was a professor at Webster University for ten years. While at Webster University, he helped bring the first Confucius Institute to Webster University, St. Louis, Missouri. For over 40 years, Bob Holden have been an active participant in the American Legion Missouri Boys and Girls State Program. He led efforts to bring the first delegations of Chinese students to be participants in this historic program. Since that first delegation to Missouri Boys and Girls State, he has lead the efforts to continue these student delegations of Chinese students to Missouri and Missouri students to China with plans to initiate delegations from other states. Bob Holden believes that long term economic success for the United States and China must be built on mutual respect, clear understandings and honest dialogue. This can be achieved by expanding our cultural ties, creating more educational partnerships, and creating bridges of opportunities for successful business in both countries.



Galal Walker - President

Galal Walker (PhD, Cornell) is a professor of Chinese in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, and the Director of the National East Asian Languages Resource Center, and the Midwest US–China Flagship Program at The Ohio State University.

Galal Walker has been instrumental in the development of Chinese language studies in the United States since the early 1980s. His work as a teacher, department chair, program director, author, and editor has contributed to establishing the “Performed Culture” approach and a field-wide pedagogical infrastructure based in research and publication for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

Walker has emphasized training Americans to the advanced levels of Chinese language and culture. Graduates of the Ohio State Chinese Program, including the Flagship Program, work in international business, finance, research, pedagogy, and government service. Walker has mentored hundreds of graduate students, authored volumes on training teachers of less commonly taught languages, championed the application of performance theory to language learning and teaching, and created innovative multimedia programs for learning Chinese from elementary to advanced levels.

Walker has participated in the leadership of national organizations and task forces, including the National Association of Self Instructional Language Programs, the National Council for the Organizations of Less Commonly Taught Languages, the Chinese Language Teachers Association, and the College Board’s Chinese Advanced Placement Language program. He was a member of the Board of Visitors at the Defense Foreign Language Institute, and honorary professor at Beijing Normal University, Guizhou Normal University, Wuhan University, and Sichuan University.

In 2003 he was the first US recipient of the “China Language and Culture Friendship Award,” presented by the People’s Republic of China Ministry of Education. In 2012, Walker was awarded the Walton Lifetime Achievement Award by the Chinese Language Teachers Association (CLTA) and was also the 2012 recipient of the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages (ADFL) Award for Distinguished Service to the Profession.



James Xue - Executive Vice President

James Xue has over 25 years of experiences on international business promotion, which include investment, technology transfer, business set-up, joint venture, sales and marketing, public relation, and executive training.  His major focus is on the Chinese market and business promotion between the US and China.

James Xue is a former professor of Renmin University, “Lead Consultant & Coordinator” for China projects at International Business Development (IBD) of Northwestern University and Director for China Affairs at Melamed & Associates. James has successfully conducted numerals joint projects. Through these projects, he has dealt with companies from multinational corps to small and medium size firms in various industries. In this capacity, he built an efficient network of contacts, from high-level government officials to industrial leaders.

James Xue is currently, as business advisor, working for The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He helps the university to develop joint programs with major Chinese universities, and also helps to create a unique program to provide internship opportunities in China to MSF students. Many of China’s top financial institutes, such as Shanghai Stock Exchange, Shanghai Future Exchange, commercial banks, security companies and etc., participate in and supporte the program.

 James Xue also serves as Deputy Director of Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy.



Sarah Burkemper - Treasurer

Sarah (Hartmann) Burkemper is a certified public accountant and a certified financial planner with a practice in Troy, Missouri.  She served as the public administrator for Lincoln County (Missouri) for twelve years, retiring from the position in December 2008.

Burkemper was a Pershing Scholar at Truman State University and graduated cum laude with two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree in 1992. She went on to earn a master’s degree in International Affairs from Washington University in 1997.

Burkemper was honored as Truman’s Alumna of the Year in 2006. She served as president of the Truman State University Foundation from 2011-2014 and served as a member of the Truman Board of Governors from March 2001 to June 2007.

Burkemper is a graduate of the CORO Women in Leadership program. She is chair of the Lincoln County Health Foundation Board and chair of Community Opportunities (the County’s Senate Bill 40 Board). 



David Firestein - Policy Chairman

David J. Firestein is the inaugural executive director of The University of Texas at Austin’s China Public Policy Center (CPPC) and clinical professor at UT’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. As CPPC chief, Firestein leads UT's institutional engagement with China and oversees innovative interdisciplinary research on China-related domestic and foreign policy topics.

Prior to joining UT, Firestein served as senior vice president and Perot Fellow at the EastWest Institute; there, he led the Institute’s work in the areas of U.S.-China relations, East Asian security and U.S.-Russia relations.

A decorated career U.S. diplomat from 1992–2010, Firestein specialized primarily in China and U.S.-China relations. He is the author or co-author of three books on China, including two China-published Chinese-language best-sellers. Firestein speaks Chinese at the near-native level.

Throughout his career, Firestein has played an active role advancing U.S.-China and U.S.-Asia trade. He has also produced path-breaking thought leadership, scholarship and Capitol Hill testimony on a range of topics, including U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, U.S.-China infrastructure investment cooperation, and the role of national exceptionalism as a driver of major international conflict today.  Firestein was also a principal architect of the U.S.-China High-Level Political Party Leaders Dialogue.

A native of Austin, Firestein holds a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and two master’s degrees from The University of Texas.



Yawei Liu - Research chairman

Yawei Liu is director of the China Program at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and has been a member of numerous Carter Center missions to monitor Chinese village, township, and county people's congress deputy elections since 1997.

Dr. Liu has written extensively on China's political developments and grassroots democracy, including three edited book series: "Rural Election and Governance in Contemporary China" (Northwestern University Press, Xi'an, 2002 and 2004), "The Political Readers" (China Central Translation Bureau Press, Beijing, 2006), and "Elections & Governance" (Northwestern University Press, Xian, 2009). He is the founder and editor of the China elections and governance website www.chinaelections.org. Dr. Liu is also co-author of the popular Chinese book "Obama: The Man Who Will Change America" (October 2008).

Dr. Liu is adjunct professor of political science at Emory University and associate director of the China Research Center in Atlanta.

He earned his bachelor's degree in English literature from Xi'an Foreign Languages Institute (1982), master's degree in recent American history from the University of Hawaii (1989), and doctorate in American political and diplomatic history from Emory University (1996).



Patrick McAloon - Executive Director

Having made his first trip to China in 1997, Patrick McAloon has been connecting Chinese and Americans for over 20 years. After leaving the eCommerce company MeetChina.com in 2001, McAloon taught Chinese at the Ohio State University for 14 years.

In addition to his work for the USHCA, McAloon is a partner in the consulting firm SinoConnect, owns and manages rental properties in Columbus, Ohio, is a founding member of the Greater Columbus Chinese Chamber of Commerce, and is a past chair of the Hefei/Tainan subcommittee for Greater Columbus Sister Cities International.

Under the guidance of Galal Walker, Minru Li and Huanzhen Zhao, McAloon won a first place prize at the 2004 Chinese Bridge world final competition for non-native speakers of Chinese in Beijing.

McAloon is the author of the guide to study abroad in China, “Studying in China,” based on his experiences in taking American students to China. He holds a PhD in Chinese language pedagogy from the Ohio State University and a BA in East Asian Studies from the College of William and Mary.