The Historical Roots of Modern Bridges: China’s Engineers as Global Actors
Ever since China’s Republican era (1912–1949), engineers in the country have invoked the past to bolster their social status and political influence. By the late twentieth century, engineers had become key political decision-makers, instrumentalising artefacts and historical texts to verify their technical prowess and legitimise their socio-political power over the longue durée. This chapter illustrates the myths and ideals that engineers employed before, during and after the Cold War era to achieve this standing. It outlines how the engineering ethos came to include both the technical and socio-political skill of bridge-building, and then, in a second step, translated into a national and international strategy of materialised arguments, in which infrastructural and other engineering projects (rather than political debate) increasingly assumed the role of a social problem-solver and a means to enforce political objectives.