Engineering Trouble: US–Chinese Experiences of Professional Discontent, 1905–1945

Thorben Pelzer (SFB 1199, Leipzig U)

Publication Date

July 2023







Additional Information


In the early twentieth century, the first large batch of Chinese civil engineers had graduated from the USA, and together with their American senior colleagues returned to China. They were enthusiastic about reconstructing the young republic by building new railways, highways, and canals, but what the engineers experienced in China, including mismanaged railways, useless highways, and silted canals, did not always meet their expectations and ideals. In this book, Thorben Pelzer makes the stories of these Chinese and American engineers come to life through exploring previously unpublished letters, rare images, maps, and a rich biographical dataset. He argues that the experiences of these engineers include a myriad of contradictions, disillusionment, and discontent, keeping the engineering profession in a constant flux of searching for its meaning and its place in Republican China.

Biographical Note

Thorben Pelzer (SFB 1199, Leipzig University, Germany)

Since September 2017, Thorben Pelzer holds the position of university lecturer for Society and Culture of Modern China at Leipzig University. He graduated in Chinese Studies, Japanese Studies, and East Asia Studies at Ruhr-University Bochum. Further, he studied at Osaka University, at Tongji University in Shanghai, and at National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei. He is an alumni of the German Merit Foundation. As a social and cultural historian of the Republican period, he currently researches Chinese engineers who studied in the USA.