Four decades of reform have transformed China from one of the poorest countries in the world to the second-largest economy - and it’s still growing.

The nation’s infrastructure and engineering capabilities are evolving just as rapidly, to keep pace with the economic transformation. The IMF predicts China’s economy will expand another 6.6% in 2018, and by at least 6% each year in the following three years.

Here are some of the feats of engineering that go hand-in-hand with the nation’s status as a superpower.

 The trajectory of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge
Image: HZMB

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge is an ambitious project which connects the Zhuhai City in Guangdong Province and Macao Special Administrative Region with Hong Kong (SAR).

The mega bridge is 55 km long, and includes 29.6 km of 3-lane carriageway which is part tunnel (6.7 km) and part bridge. Two artificial islands have been built for the tunnel landings at the Hong Kong SAR end.

At a total cost of $2.3 billion dollars, the project was completed in January 2018, dramatically reducing the time it takes to travel between the three cities.

2. The Bullet Train

 The Beijing to Hong Kong bullet train
Image: MTR Corporation

Rail passengers will soon be able to travel at high speed from Beijing to Hong Kong. The journey will take just nine hours, a marked improvement on the current journey time of 24 hours. The highly-anticipated Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL) is scheduled to open on September 23rd. China’s high speed rail network extends to 25,000km and will compete with airlines to transport people quickly and comfortably across the country.

3. Aircraft Carriers

 China's first domestically developed aircraft carrier departs Dalian
Image: Reuters

China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier set sail earlier this year for sea trials. The 65,000-tonne Type 001A is China’s latest effort to make sure its naval fleet can compete on a global scale. The ship is expected to go into service by 2020, while China plans to have four aircraft carrier battle groups afloat by 2030.

Simultaneously, Chinese engineers are working to avoid a major threat to aircraft carriers: jellyfish. Swarms of jellyfish can get sucked into a ship’s water intake and end up clogging the cooling system, bringing the ship to a standstill.

4. Panda-Shaped Solar Farm

 The Datong Panda Power Plant seen from space
Image: Google Earth

Over the last decade, China has positioned itself as a global leader in renewables, pushing investment into renewable energy and closing down coal plants.

In a publicity-friendly move, one of its largest solar farms was built in the shape of two pandas, one of which is waving.

Located in China’s northern Shanxi province, the Datong Panda Power Plant is a giant 50MW solar array spread across 100 hectares. It is the first plant to be built under a scheme agreed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Panda Green Energy’s major shareholder, China Merchants New Energy.

According to data published by REN21, at the end of 2016 China had 77.4GW of solar PV installed, representing more than a quarter of the global total.

5. The New Silk Road

 China's New Silk Road
Image: Morgan Stanley

Key to cementing China’s position as a global economic power is the huge Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, or the so-called New Silk Road.

Morgan Stanley predicts China’s investment in B&R countries will increase by 14% annually over the next two years and that the total investment is likely to double to as much as $1.3 trillion by 2027.

Since it was first proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in the autumn of 2013, more than 100 countries and international organizations have signed Belt and Road cooperation documents, widening the initiative's scope to take in Africa, Latin America and the South Pacific region as well as Eurasia.

The Annual Meeting of the New Champions is taking place in Tianjin, People's Republic of China between 18 and 20 September 2018