Gill received his Ph.D in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia in 1991.. His thesis investigated the role of weapons transfer in forming the foreign policy of China and was entitled "Fire of the Dragon: Arms Transfers in Chinese Security Policy.". He is fluent in Chinese, English, and French.
Prior to being named the SIPRI director in 2007, Gill held the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C from 2002.. He served as a Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies and inaugural Director of the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
Before his work at Brookings, Dr. Gill's previous assignments included directing the East Asia programmes at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies of the Monterey Institute of International Studies, in Monterey, California. He also held the Fei Yiming Chair in Comparative Politics at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Chinese and American Studies, at Nanjing University in China.