This article argues that the first important comprehensive efforts by US mathematicians to survey, translate, and disseminate the work of Chinese mathematicians resulted from Cold War geopolitical and scientific competition and economic pressures that emerged in the 1950s and 1960s. The success of the American Mathematical Society’s (AMS) translation program and its journal Chinese Mathematics depended less on official diplomatic channels and more on an informal network of Chinese American mathematicians and librarians in the United States, which provided the infrastructure and hidden labor necessary for transnational mathematical exchange and translation. The history of the Chinese translation project demonstrates the importance of moving beyond the biographies and work of established mathematicians to capture the broader transpacific social history of Chinese American mathematical research and technical labor in the early Cold War. Moreover, the article demonstrates the importance of bringing Asian American history and the history of Cold War science together, as the mathematical and linguistic expertise and labor required came from recently immigrated Chinese American mathematicians caught at the nexus of Cold War anticommunist politics and the incomplete repeal of Chinese exclusion. Historians of mathematics have mostly narrated the late 1940s and early 1950s as a time of anti-communist purges that impacted the lives of Chinese scientists and derailed US–China scientific exchange. Meanwhile, the 1960s have remained unexamined. Instead, we see the ways in which the AMS’s translation program generated important mathematical exchanges that widely impacted mathematics and adjacent fields.

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