How does one define “assassin’s mace”? The expression proved to be one of the most difficult of the 1000 or so terms that a US–China team of nuclear experts had to wrestle with as they assembled a common glossary that can be used in bilateral and international discussions involving nuclear security issues. The two-year project, sponsored by the US National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on International Security and Arms Control (CISAC) and the Chinese Scientists Group on Arms Control of the Chinese People’s Association for Peace and Disarmament, released its product in November; publication had been delayed for two months by the disastrous May earthquake in Sichuan Province.

Most of the glossary entries are simply matched to their equivalents in the other language. But some terms required more nuanced translations. “New thinking,” for example, continues in the Chinese policy lexicon to denote the geopolitical philosophy advanced by Soviet president Mikhail...

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