I saw an article titled ‘The Rise of Chinese Cheneys’, written by Nicholas Kristof, with a lead copy

China today resembles the Bush era in America: Hard-liners are ascendant. Brace yourself

in today's New York Times. I know the meaning of 'Brace for.' But as I was uncertain about the meaning of 'Brace Yourself,' I consulted with Urban dictionary, which defines it as ‘Prepare yourself mentally or emotionally for hearing something unpleasant, out of place or inappropriate.’

However, in this particular case, what does ‘Brace yourself’ mean? Is the author casting this word to Chinese, or Americans?

By the way, I found really amusing phrases ‘panda-huggers’ and ‘panda-muggers’ in relation with 'yin' and 'yang' concept in this article, which might not be any new to you, but new to me.

Chinese-American relations are deeply strained and likely to get worse. American opinion tends to be divided between panda-huggers (‘China is fabulous!’) and panda-muggers (‘China is evil!’), but the truth lies between this yin and yang.

  • 4
    +1 for citing urbandictionary.com which is, in my opinion, one of the most valuable (and up-to-date) resources with respect to language. And yes, I'm completely serious.
    – Adam
    Jan 21, 2011 at 3:56
  • 2
    "Is the author casting this word to Chinese, or Americans?" The advice "brace yourself" is addressed to the readers of the article. What is the audience of the NY Times? (assuming they still have one ;P)
    – Sylverdrag
    Jan 21, 2011 at 14:19

3 Answers 3


To brace means "make (a structure) stronger or firmer with wood, iron, or other forms of support" (Webster's). So it means get ready to withstand some kind of extra stress. "Brace yourself" is a very common English expression.


China today resembles the Bush era in America: Hard-liners are ascendant. Brace yourself.

The key to your question:

However, in this particular case, what does 'Brace yourself' mean? Is the author casting this word to Chinese, or Americans?

lies in these portions of the article (emphases mine):

My take is that China is going through a period resembling the Bush era in the United States: hawks and hard-liners have gained ground in domestic politics, and they scoff at the country’s diplomats as wimps. China’s foreign ministry seems barely a player.

The upshot is that China-Firsters — Chinese versions of Dick Cheney — have a greater voice. Brace yourself.

Kristof's point is that regardless of whatever goodwill China's leaders in contact with the outside world (president, prime minister, diplomats, etc.) try to garner, powerful domestic elements (hawks, hard-liners, Cheneys, etc.) are at play behind the scenes and the significant influence they wield within China will have external ripple effects.

Indeed, the subject of Kristof's final sentence, "Brace yourself", could be ambiguous. On the one hand, one could argue that he is referring to Americans, in general, warning them to get ready for the onslaught of the Chinese Cheneys who are gaining strength with each passing day. On the other hand, the subject of the sentence could be the reader of the article, whoever the reader is. (I favor this line of thought.) Thus, whether you are Chinese, American, Brazilian, etc., well, brace yourself, anyway, for the impact of the China-Firsters on whatever corner of the globe you inhabit.

Brace yourself can also be read as steel yourself (although steel yourself is not as idiomatic an expression). Here are the relevant definitions:

  • brace (verb) — prepare (someone or oneself) for something difficult or unpleasant
  • steel (verb) — mentally prepare (oneself) to do or face something difficult

    New Oxford American Dictionary (2nd Edition)

Another related phrase is brace up:

  • brace up (phrasal verb) — be strong or courageous

    New Oxford American Dictionary (2nd Edition)

You know you are bracing yourself whenever you do any of the following:

  • arch your back
  • breathe in and out slowly and deeply
  • clasp your hands
  • close your eyes
  • crack your knuckles and steel your nerves
  • grab a hold of your body or nearby object
  • hold another hand tightly
  • make a low whistling sound
  • make your posture erect
  • tighten your face into a grimace
  • tighten your fist
  • tighten your jaw
  • say, "OK, let's do this!"
  • stiffen your neck
  • wrinkle your forehead, etc.

One example, for brevity's sake:

We're going down, mate. Brace yourself for the impact!

Also, I would recommend that you consult Merriam-Webster Online whenever you need to find the meaning of a word or phrase, especially in American usage. Urban Dictionary is great for streetwise lingo, slang, colloquialisms and newly-coined terms, but it is not a standard dictionary, in that its content is user-generated.

  • Thanks Jimi for showing me many instances reminding me of "Brace myself." I dindn't know 'Steel oneself' is an equivalent. As a septuagenarian, I got to brace myself when walking on the street, rising up from chair, bending body over washstand, and not to stumble on the rim of rugs in the living room, etc, etc. -Yoichi Jan 21, 2011 at 3:36
  • @Yoichi Oishi: You're most welcome. Nice examples. I just realized that I did not really answer your question, initially. Upon rereading, I discovered you already knew the meaning of Brace yourself but you were interested in how it was used in this context! So I've edited my answer accordingly!
    – Jimi Oke
    Jan 21, 2011 at 3:51

Colloquially, it also means "have another shot of liquor." Perhaps good advice if China is creating clones of Cheney?

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