July 28, 2021


New federally funded research center would translate and analyze documents from the People’s Republic of China and other countries of strategic interest.

WASHINGTON — Today, Representatives Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Development, International Organizations, and Global Corporate Social Impact, Mike Gallagher (WI-08), Bill Keating (MA-09), and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) introduced the Open Translation and Analysis Center Authorization ActThis legislation establishes a new Federally Funded Research and Development Center called the Open Translation and Analysis Center (OTAC).  

OTAC would be charged with translating into English important open source foreign-language material from the People’s Republic of China, Russia, and other countries of strategic interest. The translated material would be available on a public website, serving as a key resource for the U.S. and allied governments, media outlets, and academics and analysts around the world.

Along with translations, OTAC would provide information to help readers understand the meaning and significance of the published material. It would also produce key analyses of translated material to enhance the understanding of the governments and political systems it covers.

Congresswoman Young Kim (CA-39) is also an original co-sponsor of the Open Translation and Analysis Center Authorization Act. The Federation of American Scientists has endorsed the legislation.

“For the United States to effectively both compete and cooperate with countries like the People’s Republic of China and Russia, we need to have a better understanding of those countries,” said Rep. Castro. “A nuanced understanding of foreign countries is impossible without reading how they communicate in their own languages. By translating foreign-language materials into English and making them publicly available, the Open Translation and Analysis Center will enhance America and its allies’ ability to compete on the world stage, while also serving as a tremendous resource for academics, journalists, and other members of civil society.”

“To understand and combat the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party, we have to read and understand CCP primary sources,” said Rep. Gallagher. “An Open Translation and Analysis Center is an important step to better defending the free world, and I’m proud to join Rep. Castro in introducing this bipartisan legislation.”

“Understanding the intentions and policies of the Russian and Chinese governments is crucial for the United States and our allies to defend the rule of law, democratic societies, and international norms,” said Rep. Keating, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Energy, the Environment, and Cyber. “OTAC will empower our government to better understand the challenges we face while helping to create policies that uphold our values and interests globally.” 

“The United States must make every effort to mitigate misunderstandings with our allies and partners, and understand the motives of our strategic adversaries,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “I am proud to support the bipartisan Open Translation and Analysis Center Authorization Act, which would aid our efforts to source and analyze foreign documents and improve communications with countries across the globe.”

The State Department will be the primary federal agency overseeing OTAC, although the legislation encourages other federal agencies to support and cooperate with the new center. 

Quotes from supporters:

“Foreign language publications are often the best starting point for understanding other countries and their actions. By identifying, translating, and analyzing key texts and speeches, the new Center would provide an important window on the world for everyone concerned with foreign policy. It has the potential to fulfill the same vital role that the renowned Foreign Broadcast Information Service played during the Cold War.” — Steven Aftergood, Federation of American Scientists

“It is more important than ever to have an accurate understanding of China. The reading and analysis of China’s media is an essential part of gaining such an understanding, and the creation of an Open Translation and Analysis Center will go a long way in developing the resources and expertise the United States needs to think about China.” — Joseph Fewsmith,Professor of International Relations and Political Science and Director of Center for the Study of Asia at Boston University.

“Any good China strategy needs to be anchored in a refined understanding of China and expanding the range of people who can apply insights to Chinese source material is going to do just that.”  — Van Jackson, Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington.

“In this era that many consider the New Cold War, it is critical that we understand what Beijing is saying about us as well as about its own intentions. To use a vision analogy: Classified sources provide the 20/20 sharp detailed pixels, but it’s the open-source material gives the 20/100 view of the whole picture. We need both. We must continue to shift resources to what all recognize as the main challenge for at least the next 20 years,” — David R. Stilwell, former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.