published on February 24, 2018
Hengli Zhang, Michael Davis
Engineering Ethics in China
A Century of Discussion, Organization, and Codes
This article describes China’s century-long concern with the professional ethics of engineers, especially a succession of codes of engineering ethics going back at least to 1933. This description is the result both of our own archival research and of “philosophical history”, the application of concepts from the philosophy of professions to the facts historians (or we) have discovered. Engineers, historians, social scientists, and philosophers of technology, as well as students of professional ethics, should find this description interesting. It certainly provides a reason to wonder whether those who write about codes of professional ethics as if they were an Anglo-American export unlikely to put down roots elsewhere might have overlooked many early codes outside English-speaking countries. While code writers in China plainly learned from Western codes, the Chinese codes were not mere copies of their Western counterparts. Indeed, the Chinese codes sometimes differed inventively from Western codes in form (for example, being wholly positive) or content (for example, protecting local culture).