About MM Lexicon

Military Mandarin Lexicon

A lexicon of military professional terms in Chinese, as used by the PLA.

This lexicon is intended to assist intermediate to advanced non-native learners of Chinese Mandarin to achieve a deeper understanding of vocabulary relevant to the study of national security, military affairs, homeland security, international security affairs, military operations, and related fields. 

There are many fine hard-bound specialized dictionaries of military terminology, mostly created by Chinese publishers, and primarily aimed at assisting native Chinese speakers trying to learn western military terms and concepts.  We the authors own several of these dictionaries and refer to them regularly.  But for the first time, the Military Mandarin Lexicon (MM Lexicon) offers a unique resource with two key differences from those on your shelf and ours.  First, the MM Lexicon is designed specifically to be an electronic, searchable, ready-use resource in the pocket of those in the field, living the business of security studies.  Second, it is a lexicon written by seasoned practitioners containing the language we felt most necessary for non-native speakers trying to develop a deeper understanding of the PLA’s concepts and key terms in their language.  The MM Lexicon is a resource not just of terms and translations, but of meaning.  We hope this work will help you, the reader, to gain more confidence in your professionally relevant vocabulary set and in turn help you share in the enrichment that access to military professionals and writings in their original language has given us.

The MM Lexicon is a teaching and learning resource to introduce terms, ideas, and concepts that are relevant to the professional areas of study of national security, military affairs, homeland security, international security affairs, military operations, and related fields.  It includes material drawn from a broad range of sources, pulling from Chinese language scholarly works in the field, traditional print media, modern social media, wikis, and “Old Soldier” (老兵) blogs in Chinese.  Where appropriate and relevant, some sources are quoted directly and cited.  In many places, the work draws from personal vocabulary lists, personal notes and scraps of paper gathered while using language in the given field or conducting research to facilitate that work.  In many cases the original source location is lost to the authors and contributors.

This lexicon was primarily prepared by Military Mandarin, LLC founder Dan Peck along with Michael Yan and Ben Lowsen.  It includes contributions, feedback, and suggestions from a broad range or scholars and practitioners in the field. 

Some of the authors and editors creating or contributing to this work are current employees of the U.S. Government, however their work herein constitutes work in a personal capacity done in their free time. The opinions expressed in this work are the authors’ and editors’ own, or those of the sources referenced, and do not reflect the view of the Department of Defense, the Department of State, or any other part of the United States government.

Dan is a retired U.S. Army China Foreign Area Officer (China FAO) who is a journeyman specialist in the fields of Asian security affairs, military operational theory and practice, and Chinese military language and strategic culture.  He is continuing in a second career of government-related work in international security and military foreign relations. 

Michael is a seasoned diplomatic interpreter.  He began his professional work with fifteen years at Voice of America, working in content production, editing, and management of Chinese and bilingual Chinese-English media.  After VoA, Michael has spent another fifteen years as a diplomatic interpreter with the U.S. State Department, where he remains one of five or fewer people who the U.S. government will rely on for sensitive cabinet-level interactions with Chinese government officials in the political and military arena. 

Ben is a specialist in Chinese political and security affairs.  He previously served as a U.S. Army field artillery officer and China FAO, working on Asia-Pacific security issues at the Pentagon and in China.  Ben is currently working as a program analyst for the U.S. Navy.  He is an active writer and speaker whose publications include book chapters, reportage, and commentary in the areas of Chinese political and military culture as well as military modernization, reform, and strategy.

This effort began over a decade ago with the support and encouragement of many a language teacher, fellow student, and peer professional.  The effort comes from the encouragement of teachers and fellow students of the Chinese language who believed that together we could move our language studies beyond general use language into the professionally relevant realm.  While basic language competence is essential for the common interactions that facilitate access to materials and relationships of a deeper professional substance, the leap to a substantive professional conversation, or professionally relevant research, in the original language is a daunting task for most of us.  We hope that the Military Mandarin Lexicon is a tool that helps advance your language studies into a deeper, more professionally relevant language ability that enables substantive dialogue and research in the Chinese language.