Michael Pillsbury is a defense policy adviser, former government official and author of books and reports on China. Born in California in 1945, Pillsbury was educated at Stanford University (B.A. in History with Honors in Social Thought) and Columbia University (M.A., Ph.D.). Major academic advisers to Pillsbury at Columbia were Zbigniew Brzezinksi and Michel Oksenberg, who later played key roles in the Jimmy Carter administration on policy toward both China and Afghanistan. Pillsbury studied the art and practice of bureaucratic politics with Roger Hilsman, President John Kennedy’s intelligence director at the State Department and the author of Politics Of Policy Making In Defense and Foreign Affairs. At Stanford, Pillsbury’s academic mentor was Mark Mancall, author of two books on the influence of ancient traditions on Chinese foreign policy.
In 1969-1970 Pillsbury was the Assistant Political Affairs Officer at United Nations Headquarters, in 1971-72, he was a doctoral dissertation Fellow for the National Science Foundation in Taiwan, in 1973-1977, Pillsbury was an analyst at the Social Science Department at RAND, In 1978, Pillsbury was a research fellow at the Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University.
During the Reagan administration, Dr. Pillsbury was the Assistant Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Planning and responsible for implementation of the program of covert aid known as the Reagan Doctrine.
In 1975-76, while an analyst at The RAND Corporation, Pillsbury published articles in Foreign Policy and International Security recommending that the United States establish intelligence and military ties with China. The proposal, publicly commended by Ronald Reagan, Henry Kissinger, and James Schlesinger, later became U.S. policy during the administrations of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.
Pillsbury served on the staff of four U.S. Senate Committees from 1978-1984 and 1986-1991. As a staff member, Pillsbury drafted the Senate Labor Committee version of the legislation that enacted the U.S. Institute of Peace in 1984. He also assisted in drafting the legislation to create the National Endowment for Democracy and the annual requirement for a DOD report on Chinese Military Power.
In 1992, under President George H.W. Bush, Pillsbury was Special Assistant for Asian Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, reporting to Andrew W. Marshall, Director of Net Assessment.
Pillsbury was a participant in three Presidential actions, according to public sources.
First was Pillsbury’s participation in President Jimmy Carter’s decision in 1979-80, as modified by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, to initiate military and intelligence ties with China. Pillsbury’s role has been discussed in three books and several media articles.
Second was Pillsbury’s participation in President Ronald Reagan’s decision under the Reagan Doctrine in 1986 to order the CIA to arm the Afghan resistance with Stinger missiles. Pillsbury’s role in this decision has been analyzed in at least five book length studies. George Crile states in Charlie Wilson’s War (p. 419), “Ironically, neither [Gust] Avrakotos nor [Charlie] Wilson was directly involved in the decision and claims any credit.”
Third was the Pillsbury’s participation in drafting President George W. Bush’s annual defense report sent by the Pentagon to Congress on Chinese Military Power in 2002-2008.
- Columbia University1980
- Stanford University1966