The Center for Strategic Translation provides statesmen and scholars with the tools needed to interpret the Chinese party-state of today while training a new generation of China specialists with the skills needed to guide our relations with the China of tomorrow.

The Center meets this need through initiatives in translation and education. The Center locates, translates, and annotates documents of historic or strategic value that are currently only available in Chinese. Our introductory essays, glossaries, and commentaries are designed to make these materials accessible and understandable to statesmen and scholars with no special expertise in Chinese politics or the Chinese language.

Complementing the Center’s published translations are the Center’s training seminars. Starting in the summer of 2023 the Center will host a series of seminars to instruct young journalists, graduate students, and government analysts in the open-source analysis of Communist Party policy, introduce them to the distinctive lexicon and history of Party speak, and train them how to draw credible conclusions from conflicting or propagandistic documentary sources.
The Center is an initiative of the American Governance Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that studies and promotes the betterment of American public institutions and publishes the quarterly magazine Palladium. The Center is directed by Tanner Greer, a noted essayist, journalist, and researcher with expertise interpreting China in the context of American foreign policy.


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Soft Bone Disease
Ruǎngǔ Bìng

For Xi Jinping, the cadres and leading officials of the Communist Party of China are prone to one devastating weakness: lack of conviction. Xi attributes both hesitation in crisis and graft in prosperity to faltering faith. He often describes emotional attachment to the party’s revolutionary heritage and sincere belief in the eventual realization of communist utopia as “spiritual calcium” that fortifies the spines of party cadres in face of hardship and sacrifice. In contrast, cadres afraid to defend the Party or its historic mission suffer from "a calcium deficiency" [缺钙] and are thus stricken with “soft bone disease.” Their pusillanimous character threatens the GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION.

Xi Jinping introduced this metaphor in one of his earliest speeches as General Secretary. In his very first address to a meeting of the POLITBURO, Xi told the senior leadership of the Party that

Belief in Marxism and a faith in socialism and communism is the political soul and spiritual pillar of a Communist, enabling them to withstand all test. To put it more vividly, ideals and convictions are the spiritual calcium of Communists, and if these ideals and convictions are missing or irresolute, then there is a lack of spiritual calcium that leads to soft bone disease. This has proved true by the cases of some Party members and officials who acted improperly due to lack of ideals and confused faith.” (Xi 2014, 16).

Xi’s comments about officials who “act improperly” came soon after the fall of Bo Xilai and just before Xi began his historic anti-corruption campaign. Soft bone disease is thus Xi’s go-to explanation for the general institutional rot he inherited. To tame corruption the Party must do more than jail the corrupt: it must rekindle belief in the old revolutionary faith.

This is not the only context where the calcium metaphor shows up: it found just as commonly in official discussions of political security. Xi Jinping’s famous judgment that the Soviet Union collapsed because there “was no one man enough to stand up and resist” [但竟无一人是男儿,没什么人出来抗争] should be read in light of Xi’s many statements on soft bone disease. From this perspective the spinelessness of the CPSU was less a problem of manly toughness and more a problem of waning faith. The Soviets faltered because they no longer received the spiritual nourishment that stiffens conviction in the face of opposition and doubt. Many of Xi’s signature concepts and policies were designed to prevent the Communist Party of China from sharing their fate.


Xi Jinping. 2014. Governance of China, vol I. Beijing: Foreign Language Press.

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