Bei­jing’s new air­port will be a trans­porta­tion cen­ter as well as a de­vel­op­ment en­gine for the en­tire re­gion

China Daily European Weekly - - Front Page - By DAVID BLAIR david­[email protected]­

Bei­jing Dax­ing In­ter­na­tional Air­port, now ris­ing on for­mer farm­land south of the city, will be much more

than an air­port. When com­pleted by Oc­to­ber 2019, it will be a hub for air, high-speed rail, sub­way, high­way — and even bi­cy­cle — traf­fic.

It is also ex­pected to drive de­vel­op­ment through­out the Bei­jing-Tian­jin-He­bei prov­ince re­gion, also known as Jing-Jin-Ji.

In ad­di­tion, the 150-square-kilo­me­ter plan­ning zone around the air­port is ex­pected to be­come a cen­ter for re­search, in­dus­try, lo­gis­tics and cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties, as well as a pleas­ant place to live.

“The air­port area is de­signed for peo­ple, for their liv­ing and work­ing and con­ve­nience. … Liv­ing ar­eas will be de­signed around ‘life cir­cles’ in which all the daily ne­ces­si­ties of life can be found within a 15-minute walk from res­i­dences,” Liu Dingding, vice-gen­eral man­ager of Bei­jing New Aerotropo­lis Hold­ings, told China Daily.

Bei­jing New Aerotropo­lis was set up by the gov­ern­ment of the Dax­ing dis­trict of Bei­jing and Bei­jing Yizhuang In­vest­ment Hold­ings Corp to plan the long-term de­vel­op­ment of land ad­ja­cent to the air­port. The air­port will be partly lo­cated in Dax­ing, a south­ern dis­trict of Bei­jing, and partly in He­bei prov­ince. Yizhuang is a town in Dax­ing.

The new air­port, which is 43 kilo­me­ters from Tian’an­men Square, sits ex­actly on the city’s tra­di­tional north-south cen­tral axis, which was es­tab­lished by the Yuan Dy­nasty (1271-1368). It is in the mid­dle of a tri­an­gle formed by the port city of Tian­jin, roughly 100 kilo­me­ters south­east of Bei­jing; the new city of Xion­gan, which is un­der con­struc­tion in He­bei about 100 km south­west of Bei­jing; and the south­ern sec­tions of Bei­jing.

Be­cause of its lo­ca­tion, the air­port will be a key link in two na­tional eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment strate­gies — the Xion­gan New Area, an eco­nomic zone that will re­duce Bei­jing’s non­cap­i­tal func­tions, and the eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion of the Bei­jingTian­jin-He­bei re­gion.

Un­like the gen­er­ally lin­ear de­signs of the past, the Dax­ing air­port will be shaped like a flower, with a cen­tral hub used for pas­sen­ger pro­cess­ing, tick­et­ing and se­cu­rity. Five petals of the flower will lead to the gates, and ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fices will be lo­cated in a sixth petal.

The de­sign of the air­port, which will be the world’s largest in terms of area, en­sures that the far­thest gate is just a 600-meter walk from the cen­tral hub.

By us­ing dis­trib­uted zones of op­er­a­tion, the air­port is set up so that pas­sen­gers will need to walk less than eight min­utes to or from a gate, and lug­gage will ar­rive at the carousel in less than 13 min­utes af­ter a flight’s ar­rival.

High-speed rail and Bei­jing sub­way sta­tions, mean­while, will be at un­der­ground lev­els of the air­port, en­sur­ing what is called “zero-dis­tance” changes be­tween trans­porta­tion modes. And, for the first time at any air­port, ac­cord­ing to Max Hirsh, a re­search pro­fes­sor at Hong Kong Univer­sity, there will be two lev­els of roads lead­ing to the de­par­ture ar­eas to re­duce traf­fic congestion.

Cao Yunchun, di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute of Avi­a­tion Eco­nomics at Civil Avi­a­tion Univer­sity in Bei­jing, says plans for the Bei­jing-Tian­jinHe­bei re­gion and the Xion­gan New Area, along with the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, are driv­ing a new round of tech­no­log­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion. He says air trans­porta­tion is es­pe­cially im­por­tant to cen­tral and west­ern parts of China, which are not close to the sea.

The State Coun­cil, China’s Cab­i­net, cre­ated two air­port eco­nomic zones — Dax­ing and one in Zhengzhou, He­nan prov­ince. Ten more air­port zones were cre­ated by the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment and Re­form Com­mis­sion and the Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity.

China is cur­rently build­ing eight new air­ports per year and will have a to­tal of 260 by 2020, up from 175 in 2010, ac­cord­ing to the 13th FiveYear Plan (2016-20).

Cao points out that the Zhengzhou zone has had a growth rate of 19.4 per­cent per year and thus has be­come a growth driver of He­nan prov­ince.

In Oc­to­ber, air­port-area de­vel­op­ment ex­perts and prac­ti­tion­ers from many coun­tries met in Bei­jing at the Sus­tain­able Air­port Ar­eas In­ter­na­tional Sem­i­nar 2018, or­ga­nized by Bei­jing New Aerotropo­lis and Hub­start Paris Re­gion, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that pro­motes de­vel­op­ment of the re­gions around Paris’ air­ports.

The idea of an “aerotropo­lis,” mean­ing city de­vel­op­ment with an air­port as its cen­ter, drives much cur­rent air­port de­vel­op­ment.

“The aerotropo­lis will pro­vide ser­vices to the Jing-Jin-Ji area — in­ter­na­tional cul­ture ex­change, in­ter­na­tional trade and in­ter­na­tional in­dus­trial co­op­er­a­tion,” says Liu, the Bei­jing New Aerotropo­lis vice-gen­eral man­ager. “Jing-Jin-Ji peo­ple will have lots of op­por­tu­ni­ties to work in this area.”

In ad­di­tion, air­ports, es­pe­cially in Asia, are be­com­ing des­ti­na­tions unto them­selves — with recre­ational fa­cil­i­ties, con­fer­ence cen­ters and shop­ping ei­ther at the air­port or nearby. In the movie Crazy Rich

Asians, the main char­ac­ter walks through the new Ter­mi­nal 4 at Changi Air­port in Sin­ga­pore and says: “I can’t be­lieve this air­port has a but­ter­fly gar­den and a movie the­ater. All we have at JFK (New York City’s lead­ing air­port) is sal­monella and de­spair.”

Bei­jing Dax­ing In­ter­na­tional Air­port, mean­while, is be­ing de­signed as an ef­fi­cient trans­fer hub for in­ter-

na­tional trav­el­ers go­ing on to other cities in China or else­where, ac­cord­ing to Kong Yue, vice-gen­eral man­ager of the air­port.

At Bei­jing Cap­i­tal In­ter­na­tional Air­port to the north, he says, less than 10 per­cent of the pas­sen­gers are trans­fers. Mem­bers of the SkyTeam global al­liance, which in­cludes China East­ern Air­lines and China South­ern Air­lines, will move to the Dax­ing air­port from Bei­jing Cap­i­tal air­port, thus fa­cil­i­tat­ing trans­fers.

One goal of the Dax­ing air­port’s de­sign­ers is to give trav­el­ers some­thing to do, and some­where to spend money, while wait­ing for their con­tin­u­ing flights.

Liu says the Dax­ing air­port rep­re­sents the first time an air­port will be a driver of na­tional de­vel­op­ment. He says the air­port will play three roles. First, it will be a con­fer­ence cen­ter to sup­port Bei­jing’s roles as a po­lit­i­cal, cul­tural and in­ter­na­tional com­mu­ni­ca­tions cen­ter. Sec­ond, the new air­port zone will have many avi­a­tion­re­lated and in­no­va­tion-re­lated in­dus­tries. Third, it is in a cross-pro­vin­cial area cover­ing Bei­jing, Tian­jin and He­bei prov­ince, so it will sup­port co­or­di­nated de­vel­op­ment of all three.

“Bei­jing is spe­cial be­cause it is the cap­i­tal of China, so many com­pa­nies want to land here,” Liu told the re­cent sem­i­nar in Bei­jing. “That means we need to choose the in­dus­try, to select the com­pa­nies. If you don’t have strict re­quire­ments, maybe some of the low-end in­dus­tries might want to come. So we have to have strict ac­cess in­di­ca­tors.

“We are also look­ing into how to cre­ate a world-class busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment. In terms of in­fra­struc­ture, for ex­am­ple, we will have an un­der­ground cor­ri­dor. We are even go­ing to have a bi­cy­cle ex­press­way in or­der for peo­ple to be able to stay, live and work here,” Liu added.

“We are also do­ing re­search on how to im­prove the busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment, in­clud­ing the gov­ern­ment ap­provals,” he said. “This is about pub­lic ser­vices, gov­ern­ment ser­vices and green de­vel­op­ment ca­pa­bil­i­ties. All of these will be part of the busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment cre­ation.”

Hirsh, the Hong Kong Univer­sity re­search pro­fes­sor, says He­bei prov­ince and the south­ern parts of Bei­jing have long been less wealthy than north­ern Bei­jing, where many univer­si­ties and Bei­jing Cap­i­tal In­ter­na­tional Air­port are lo­cated.

For the Bei­jing-Tian­jin-He­bei re­gion, “the chal­lenge is how we can make sure that the whole re­gion is at­trac­tive to peo­ple from all walks of life”, Hirsh says. “How can you make sure that these satel­lite cities are go­ing to ap­peal to a wide range of peo­ple of dif­fer­ent in­come and ed­u­ca­tion lev­els? If you don’t have a plan for that in place, it will lead to more so­cial problems.”

Such air­ports in China “are in­creas­ing the aerial con­nec­tiv­ity of the cities, but they are also kind of dou­bling as a strat­egy for ur­ban ex­pan­sion and ru­ral de­vel­op­ment”, Hirsh adds.

“This fits in with the larger global trends in which you have rapidly grow­ing large cities that face pres­sure on the his­tor­i­cal in­ner core,” he says. “What is hap­pen­ing a lot in China is to build very large trans­porta­tion nodes as a way to di­rect traf­fic and ac­tiv­ity out­ward.

“In the case of Bei­jing, this has a big­ger di­men­sion be­cause it is not just about ex­tend­ing the city out­ward but about re­gional in­te­gra­tion and ru­ral re­form, try­ing to bring some of the ben­e­fits of prox­im­ity to Bei­jing to un­der­served com­mu­ni­ties far­ther out. ... This is a tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity for ur­ban re­de­vel­op­ment.”

Plan­ners around the world also strug­gle to en­sure that air­ports cre­ate job op­por­tu­ni­ties for poor peo­ple and those with fewer skills. For ex­am­ple, Harts­field-Jack­son At­lanta In­ter­na­tional Air­port in the US state of Ge­or­gia, which is the world’s largest air­port in terms of pas­sen­ger traf­fic, has not trans­formed the rel­a­tively poor ar­eas nearby.

Todd Greene, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the At­lanta Univer­sity Cen­ter Con­sor­tium, an as­so­ci­a­tion of tra­di­tion­ally African-Amer­i­can col­leges and univer­si­ties, says most of the neigh­bor­hoods near the At­lanta air­port are rel­a­tively poor, and many of the jobs be­ing cre­ated by com­pa­nies near the air­port pay around $100,000 a year. How­ever, the skills of nearby res­i­dents qual­ify them mostly for jobs that pay half that amount or less, he says. Bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion is needed, but it is also cru­cial to shape de­vel­op­ment that is ap­pro­pri­ate for lo­cal work­ers, he adds.

Green also says: “What is hap­pen­ing with shared pros­per­ity? Is the de­vel­op­ment of the air­port for the air­lines? Should the in­dus­tries that de­velop around the air­port be for the peo­ple or the politi­cians? Is it for the short term or for the long term? Will the in­dus­tries pro­vide durable ben­e­fits for the peo­ple?”

Bei­jing’s Dax­ing air­port, mean­while, is seen as a good ex­am­ple of col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween China and Europe. It was de­signed by ADP In­ge­nierie, an en­gi­neer­ing sub­sidiary of the com­pany that op­er­ates the Paris air­ports; Lon­don-based Zaha Ha­did Ar­chi­tects; and the Bei­jing In­sti­tute of Ar­chi­tec­tural De­sign. Zaha Ha­did, the Iraq-born Bri­tish ar­chi­tect who died in 2016, was the pri­mary de­signer of the Dax­ing air­port.

Peter Budd, vice-chair­man of the China-Bri­tain Busi­ness Coun­cil and CEO of Ul­tra, a com­pany that builds au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles for air­ports, says: “There have al­ready been a num­ber of ma­jor con­tri­bu­tions to this pro­ject by Bri­tish com­pa­nies in terms of sup­port­ing the struc­tural de­sign (and) the sim­u­la­tion of pas­sen­ger flows through the ter­mi­nal, and a num­ber of com­pa­nies are talk­ing to the air­port com­pany about sup­ply of se­cu­rity equip­ment and other sup­ply items.”

Ul­tra will use its au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles to move pas­sen­gers from park­ing ar­eas to the ter­mi­nal at the new Chengdu air­port, which is also sched­uled for com­ple­tion next year. This will be the sec­ond de­ploy­ment of this tech­nol­ogy in the world, fol­low­ing Heathrow Air­port in Lon­don, where it has been used for seven years.

Alexan­der Kirby, founder and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Fi­nal Ap­proach, a com­pany that fo­cuses on de­vel­op­ing “air­port cities”, has worked closely with Gatwick Air­port south of Lon­don. He says con­nec­tiv­ity with China has grown sig­nif­i­cantly now that Gatwick has di­rect con­nec­tions with Chengdu in Sichuan prov­ince, Chongqing and Tian­jin and is about to start ser­vice to Shang­hai. He adds that the au­to­mo­tive and aerospace com­pa­nies around Gatwick do a lot of busi­ness with China.

Budd says there will still be a large role for Euro­pean com­pa­nies in China as in­dus­try and tech­nol­ogy in the coun­try are up­graded in the next decade.

“There are many prece­dents in the world for what is hap­pen­ing in China. You look at what hap­pened in Ja­pan af­ter the Sec­ond World War. I can re­mem­ber when I was a kid, things made in Ja­pan were re­garded as rub­bish. Yet they started by not in­no­vat­ing, but by re­fin­ing, mo­tor­bikes, stereos, cam­era sys­tems. They were ba­si­cally de­sign­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing sys­tems. Just-in-time pro­cesses ba­si­cally de­vel­oped in Ja­pan. The same is go­ing to hap­pen to China.

“That doesn’t mean that ev­ery­body else is not go­ing to be part of the ven­ture,” he adds. “They are go­ing to get in­volved in our economies and we are go­ing to re­main in­volved in theirs. It is very short­sighted to think that any one of us is go­ing to be knocked off the planet in terms of busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties. That is not the way it works.”

“The air­port area is de­signed for peo­ple, for their liv­ing and work­ing and con­ve­nience.” LIU DINGDING vice-gen­eral man­ager of Bei­jing New Aerotropo­lis Hold­ings


The en­trance to the de­par­ture gates.


The Dax­ing air­port is still un­der con­struc­tion.


Mem­bers of the sus­tain­able air­ports sem­i­nar ex­am­ine a model of Dax­ing air­port.

A del­e­ga­tion from At­lanta air­port takes a selfie at Dax­ing air­port.

Work­ers work on the roof of Dax­ing air­port.

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