Year of Graduation


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Open Access Thesis

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First Advisor

Ya Zuo


As critical players in the Chinese state’s pursuit of modernization and political legitimacy, Chinese scientists have been the recipients of state attention and scrutiny throughout modern history. This paper will analyze how Qian Xuesen (1911-2009) became a national hero as the Chinese Communist Party’s model scientist. Qian developed his scientific expertise in the United States, before Cold War political tensions forced his extradition. Upon his return to China, Qian became a key missile scientist in the state’s emerging nuclear weapons program. By analyzing Qian’s public persona as portrayed in official state media, this paper will argue that the CCP conferred distinct political duties to scientists, defining a new socio-political role for scientist-intellectuals. Beginning from the Mao era and continuing through to the present day, the CCP’s portrayal and promotion of Qian’s legacy gives insight into the state’s strategy to use science to bolster authority and legitimize policy.