Margot Landman was born in Denver and grew up in New York City, where she attended high school at the Dalton School. After graduating from Brown University in 1978 with an A.B. in Chinese language and history, Landman was among the first Americans invited to teach in China after diplomatic recognition (1979-81). She stayed in China for a third year to continue her Chinese language study and to work at the newly established CBS News bureau in Beijing. Upon her return to the United States, she began working in educational and arts exchange between the U.S. and China (1983-86). She received her Master's degree in international affairs from Columbia University.
After graduate school, Landman joined the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations in June 2002 and is Senior Director for Education Programs. Previously, she directed the Teachers Exchange Program from the American Council of Learned Societies, was Assistant Director of the East Asian Institute at Columbia University (1992-95), Associate Director of the East Asian Legal Studies Program at Harvard University (1991-92), and Program Coordinator for the Committee on Legal Education Exchange with China, based at Columbia Law School (1987-1991).