The new Beijing Daxing International Airport completed its first test flights of passenger planes in May 2019. The airport’s construction is expected to be completed on June 30 and flight service is expected to start on Sept. 30. The terminal building, the second-largest single-building airport terminal after Istanbul Airport, with an area of more than 1,000,000 m2 (11,000,000 sq ft) .
The ground-breaking for Beijing Daxing International Airport took place on Dec. 26, 2014, meaning the construction process will have spanned less than five years in total. This speed has amazed the whole world. Yet a report from the New York Times sounded sadly envious, saying that the airport reflects China’s reliance on big infrastructure projects as “a salve for deeper problems in politics and economics.”
This raises a question of necessity. First of all, Beijing, as a fast-growing megalopolis, has relied on the three terminal buildings and three runways of Capital International Airport for years. Last year, the passenger throughput of Capital airport exceeded 100 million, which is almost at maximum capacity. Under the circumstances, building a new airport was imperative.
Moreover, whether speaking of an airport or other projects, what is the purpose of China’s infrastructure? Does an infrastructure project only have to be matched with the economic level of its area? These questions need to be answered with practical examples.
Take northwest China’s Gansu province, where landforms range from mountains and plateaus to valleys to the Gobi Desert. Massive investments there have gone into building bridges, railroads, and highways in order to get around the mixed terrain, bringing convenience to residents and reducing transportation costs. As another example, among the 100 highest bridges around the world, almost half of them are in southwest China’s Guizhou province, as it is the only province in China without any plains. In this regard, bridges have become indispensable to building roads through its mountainous terrain.
Most of the projects above were implemented by Chinese state-owned enterprises. Indeed, if simply considered from the perspective of return on investment, these infrastructure projects may not meet the expected returns. However, these endeavors have delivered tangible benefits to locals.
Just as a road can well increase the economic growth of a village, an airport can contribute mightily to the development of a city, or even an entire country. Beijing Daxing International Airport is neither a “publicity stunt” nor an “infrastructure-based drive for economic growth.” Instead, it meets a practical need for Beijing’s further development, and contributes to fulfilling the people of China’s aspirations for a better life.