China Focus: Increased infrastructure spending promises new growth engine in western China

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, June 28, 2021

Aerial photo taken on April 26, 2021 shows a view of Chengdu Tianfu International Airport in southwest China's Sichuan Province. (Photo by Zou Wensi/Xinhua)

CHENGDU, June 27 (Xinhua) -- People traveling from Chengdu in southwest China's Sichuan Province can now check in their baggage from their hotels and board their flights using facial recognition at the new Chengdu Tianfu International Airport, which opened for operations on Sunday.

Located some 50 km from downtown Chengdu, the Tianfu airport is the largest civil transport airport built during China's 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020) and the second international airport in the provincial capital, Chengdu.

With first-phase investment exceeding 75 billion yuan (about 11.7 billion U.S. dollars), the airport has two terminals totaling 710,000 square meters, roughly the size of 100 football pitches, and is capable of dealing with an annual passenger throughput of 60 million.

According to long-term plans, the airport will eventually house terminals totaling 1.4 million square meters, capable of handling 120 million passengers annually.

The opening of the airport, which enables Chengdu to become an integrated international transport hub, demonstrates the country's increasing infrastructure spending in its western regions in recent years.

Passengers operate automatic check-in machines at Chengdu Tianfu International Airport in southwest China's Sichuan Province, June 27, 2021. (Xinhua/Liu Kun)


China's vast western regions once had weak infrastructure.

Thanks to China's Western Development Strategy launched in 2000, infrastructure development in the regions has undergone earth-shaking change.

Sichuan's total highway length led the country by the end of 2020, reaching 347,000 km, while completed expressways in the province totaled more than 8,000 km. All townships and villages have now been equipped with hardened roads.

China-Europe freight trains from Chengdu have made 8,000 trips so far, linking Chengdu with 61 cities overseas.

The western international aviation hub has taken its basic shape. Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport has long ranked fourth in China in terms of passenger throughput. It was also the first airport in central or western China to handle more than 50 million passengers a year.

Even when the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, Chengdu maintained 10 regular international all-cargo air routes to cities including Chicago, Frankfurt, Brussels and Tokyo. Last May, the Shuangliu airport became the world's busiest in terms of take-offs and landings.

Photo taken on June 27, 2021 shows a view of the first flight arriving at Chengdu Tianfu International Airport in southwest China's Sichuan Province since its opening for operations. (Xinhua/Shen Bohan)


"The upgrading of transportation infrastructure can help the western regions build a highland for opening-up, promising a new engine for economic growth in central and western China," said Hu Guoping, an associate professor at the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics.

The foreign trade volume in China's central and western regions registered a 45.1 percent increase in the first quarter of this year, hitting 1.5 trillion yuan. The growth rate was 15.9 percentage points higher than that of the country's overall foreign trade, according to Li Kuiwen, spokesperson for the General Administration of Customs.

The new airport has also brought new opportunities. Chengdu's science and technology-oriented "Future City," which spans more than 60 square km and is located 2 km away from the Tianfu airport, has accelerated the introduction of industries in fields such as aerospace, electronic information and high-end manufacturing. It has 12 registered projects with a total investment of over 100 billion yuan.

In the Eastern New Area District, the construction of a demonstration zone for innovation in civil aviation science and technology is in full swing, with investment exceeding 10 billion yuan.

The construction of the Tianfu campus of the Civil Aviation Flight University of China has also been accelerated. The campus is expected to accommodate 25,000 full-time students.

"The western regions have the greatest potential for domestic demand. Only by activating this market of 400 million people can the country's high-quality development be promoted," said Tang Jiqiang, a researcher at the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics. ■

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