Mega-Projects and Raising Power of China

This year is a unique and special year in China. I can feel it, but still cannot find a way to understand it so well. The most obvious thing is the recent completion or construction of mega-projects in China.

Let me name a few in this short article, to help my friends to understand the energy and passion of life here in China.


On March 26, 2008, two terminals of the two largest airports in China – Shanghai and Beijing – opened. On the same day, I happened to experience the two wonderful airport and bring back reports:

At the same time, the third runway of Pudong Airport was opened the same day. Considering both Shanghai Pudong Airport’s first terminal and the second terminal of Beijing airport were opened in 1999, you can imagine the economic boom in China in the last 9 years. Now Beijing’s third terminal is the largest terminal on this planet, bigger than Heathrow’s four added together, and also one of the largest building ever built (in term of space). The Pudong Airport T2 also doubled the capacity of the first terminal, and both airports (in Beijing and Shanghai) can handle almost the same amount of traffic as current Heathrow airport (the current world busiest airport).

Beijing didn’t stop because the second airport is also under discussion with the completion of the new terminal.If you look at the whole China, the scene is even more amazing. Beijing’s second airport is only one of the 97 new airports to be built in the next 12 years in China. That is almost 2/3 of the number of the current airports in this country. Raise of economic power? I think so.


Besides the current Donghai Bridge (46 km in length and extends to Yangshan Deep Water Port) that was completed in 2005, the second large bridge, from Shanghai to Hangzhou, crossing the Hangzhou Bay – if there is a bay area, maybe this is the best place to name it. The bridge is going to open on May 1, 2008. It is now the largest bridge in the world – another world’s mega-project.

Before this cross-sea bridge opens, the second cross-sea bridge already started construction, just 50 km west of the first bridge, while the third bridge is under planning. If the first cross-sea is far beyond my imagination, the next two bridges sound like fair tale to me. What does it mean? It may mean the hottest city circle in the world may emerge, with Hangzhou, Shanghai, Ningbo, Shaoxing, Jiaxing, and many other cities connected deeply with each other via express ways.

Besides what is happening in the south of Shanghai, another mega project is going on on the north. The bridge and tunnel connecting Shanghai and Chongming Island and from the island to Jiangsu province is under construction and will open in 2010. The tunnel and bridge will connect China’s third largest island with the mainland, and also connect the north China to Shanghai crossing the wide Yangtze River.

Just imagine what if all the projects are completed!


The Beijing to Tianjin – two of the largest cities in China were just connected via high-speed train. The 120km high-speed train cost people only 30 minutes to commute between the two cities. At interval of 5 minutes, the train runs at 350 km/hour (just a little bit slower than the maglev, but still fast enough, especially considering the lower cost, it is a good choice). 30 minutes may mean that to live in Tianjin and commute to Shanghai is possible alternative for people in the two cities.

Besides the Beijing and Tianjin high-speed train, the Shanghai and Beijing train (beside the old line) is also under construction, and the high-speed train between Shanghai and Nanjing (besides the old line) are also on the way. In the future, fast-speed trains will connect the most powerful cities in this big country, and more economic power will be generated with these lines.

In Shanghai, the Hongqiao Train Station is going to be the largest train station (much larger than also huge Shanghai South Station). Maglev will also go to the station. With Maglev connecting the two big airports in Shanghai, people may transit in just 15 minutes – how people can believe the two stations are 40 km away from each other, and one is on the east most and the other is west of the largest city in China.

Subway and Expressways

In the last month of the last year, 58 metro (or subway, if you want to call it this way) stations were put into use on the same day! They are just part of the 150 subway stations currently under construction in this city. If you look at the future metro map, you will be amazed that places like Chongming Island, and Dishui Lake are connected by metro. All these locations are almost the farthest locations in Shanghai.

In Beijing, its the same. In Nanjing, it is the same. In many cities in China, subways are spreading quickly, and more and more lines are running underground.

If you look at the whole China, I was so amazed by the expressway network. In my Luoyang, in central China’s Henan province, I was happy to see the expressway connected Luoyang with the near by city – Kaifeng, and Zhengzhou, something around 200 km. I haven’t thought about how close these three cities are with the express way. Pretty exciting, isn’t it? However, if you look at another name of the segment of the expressway – Lianhuo Expressway, which means, it is part of a longer expressway, G30, that connects Lianyungang (at city at the East China Sea), and Huoerguosi (a city at the border of West Border) – it is 4280 km in length. The Mega project connecting the three cities is just 0.5% of the entire highway.

Just like G30, G10, G12, G16, G18, G20, G22, G36, G40, G42, G50, G56, G60, G70, G72, G76, G78, G80 all run from the east-most city to central cities or west cities – all cross the country from east to west! From south to north, we also have G11, G15, G25, G35, G45, G55, G65, G75, and G85. The two Mega bridge (Shanghai to Ningbo, and Shanghai to Chongming is just part of the G15 Shenyang to Haikou expressway, again, less than 1% of the total length.

China is building the world’s largest expressway network – just like Roosevelt built the current US freeway network. Although I am not an economist, I can see the huge economic power the highway network put into the country.

Mega-Projects and the Raising Power Behind It

I am not a economist, and I am not a politician. I am just one of the many people in China. I can feel the change on daily basis, and sometimes, when I start to connect the dots together, I saw a picture I never saw before, and many people in China haven’t saw for centuries. China is a complicated mixture of the best thing, a

nd sometimes the worst, and the brightest and the darkest, as I mentioned in my entry: blind men and the elephant.  Today, in this moment, I do feel the best and the brightest from this country. There is no doubt that behind the mega-projects I mentioned above, there is a raising power – a power that people cannot afford to ignore.

25 thoughts on “Mega-Projects and Raising Power of China

  1. Do we need another mouthpiece here to hype up those carefully staged, glaringly over-propagandaed mega projects?

    Instead of attracting the eyeballs of foreign ‘useful fools’ and satisfying its overbloated hubris, this corrupted-to-the-core commie regime should cut a check for 2000 Yuan to send to each average Chinese man, woman or kid who are saddled with the raging inflation which has pushed the living expenses ever closer to Western country levels.

    Sad truth behind that golden veneer.

  2. However, you need to be aware that much of these mega projects are not really needed in this still very poor country. I don’t regard this as money well spent. It appears that most of the money derived from sweat money by China’s poor class has been put into these wasteful mega cost structures, as well as into past 5 and 6 years’ real estate boom. Money should be spent in basic research and development, or acting as venture capital to stimulate China’s innovation and raise this country into the first layer food chain in global economy. However, unfortunately, China’s industrial structure remain at the bottom of the global food chain: profit margin weak manufacturing. No wonder at one end, there has been massive factory shutdown and company bankruptcy in Guangdong province, at the other end, endless effort to build some of the tallest buildings and world’s biggest airports.

  3. I agree with Berlin-Olympic-Beijing-Olympic that despite Chinese income is still at the very low end in the world’s ranking, its commodity pricing has approached to world class. People have to use their low income to buy products as expensive or more expensive than that in the US or Europe. Not to mention the forbiddenly high priced condos in Shanghai and Beijing which has surpassed pricing in USA for sure (with the only exception of Silicon Valley or Manhattan).

  4. I wonder how people living in Lhasa feel about “…the energy and passion of life here in China.”

    The Chinese seem unable to comprehend that it takes more than a few large buildings and stadiums to become a world-class city. Doesn’t mean much to have dozens of skyscrapers when just down the street you have millions of people crowded into ramshackle apartments with communal kitchens and bathrooms.

    You can hardly drink municipal water (when it’s even available) in China, yet the priority is building luxury condo’s and swimming pools?

    The author must have recently started employment at Xinhua.

  5. i feel the same excitement as well, though I am away from China at the moment.

    this is a process. skyscrapers and expressways come first, then it *will* come better political system, compassionate citizens and a more civilized sociality. i am sure my fellow Chinese will get there, it’s just a matter of time.

    Thank you for sharing!

    *i grew up in hangzhou

  6. Opening up of transportation routes are crucial in the development of any large countries; once the infrastructure is laid, then can progress in other areas be made in a more meaningful way.

    I also understand that another 35, 000 km network of trunk roads nationwide is being completed as well and by 2010, every small town will be accessible by sealed roads. That includes currently harder reach areas in Yunnan, Guizhou and Tibet.

    That is good and forward thinking on the government’s part.

  7. There is an old Chinese saying: Always pick the non boiling pot. It seems that we got a lot of this type here. Readers who don’t understand what this phase means should learn more about China and Chinese culture.

  8. It’s just for image, or more presice, egonism, that’s all. Having Mega-project make local goverment officals feel good and proud. Just like the megalev-trian project in Shanghai, it is a merely image-project and no boday care it is losing money everyday

  9. There have been three golden eras of prosperity in the 5000-year Chinese history, averaging 119 years in duration. During those 450 years, the Emperors engaged in mega projects one after another. Unfortunately, most of them never enhanced average people’s livelihood and welfare but ended up as a big burden on them.

    Nothing has changed between the current one and the previous three except the titles of actors or actresses of the historical farce:

    —emperors vs revolutionary descendant clique

    —feudal landlord class vs commie-turned bureaucratic capitalist class

    —feudal bureaucrats vs commie party secretaries

    —Confucius’ ordered society idealism vs “harmonious society” commie-party slogan

    BTW, the previous three golden eras ended badly with ensuing suffering and destruction lasting hundreds of years, will this one be an exception?

  10. One example to refute the needs for China’s wild spendings on mega projects is the situation in USA. If you have visited the US, you will find that despite USA being a much bigger economy, it has refrained from making outlandish investments into ego-boasting mega structures. It only builds something as it sees the needs and approved by the state congress. The improved are mostly need based. I don’t have problem seeing China investing in road and highway infrastructure because that’s needed for oiling the economy. However, spending so much money to build so many tall office buildings in Beijing’s CBD or Shanghai’s PuDong district seems to be a waste, let alone numerous apartment buildings that can only be afforded by investors with expensive purchasing prices. For example, even though Shanghai has less population than New York City, it now has double the amount of tall structures as that in NYC. The real estate should not be where a still poor country invest its money. Rather, it needs to spend the money to raise this country’s industrial capacity to top of the world’s food chain. Unfortunately, China today remains as a big manufacturer of low-tech commodities for the world, and countless university graduates can’t find a job when they graduate. There has been no incentive for young forks to engage in basic research and developments. Afterall, making money in flipping condos in Shanghai has been a better way to get rich… I don’t think this is a correct path for China.

  11. My feeling for those people who have negative opinion about these projects are just jealous, or ignorant, or blabla. Look back America, when Manhattan skyscrapers were built, America was not as social progressed as it is now. Go back read world history, especially your own country’s history.

  12. All these are great and I am really happy for my country. But it is too early to say ‘this is the best’. And I am just afraid that the growing emotion to prove itself will draw too much attention on us which possibly make us even harder to improve in the future.

  13. Besides that, in US, most middle size city have airports which maybe not as big as Shanghai’s or Beijing’s, that are very convenient and you almost never need to take a bus to go around within the airport. In this sense, Heathrow isn’t good either. But maybe Heathrow’s new terminal will change my mind in the future.

  14. The Motherland is undergoing the same boom-bust-then-boom again cycle that the west went through over a century or more ago.

    HR violations? Ah-ah.

    Injustice? Yup.

    Inequality? Of course.

    Corruption? You bet.

    But these are the same kinds of wretchness and torments that the West had to endured from the end of the Medievel Ages to the middle of the 20th century! One cannot expect the feudal mentality of the many to make some sudden “Great Leap Forward” into modern civilised mind-set that many “simple yet sometimes naive” western media commentators & activists keep on harping on.

    BTW, that 2000 yuan to each poor peasant won’t get far these days.

  15. Hey Jet,

    I thought you are from Singapore? Who are u calling “Motherland” so dearly?

  16. Well, I am from Shanghai and was born in Shanghai and am very familiar with China’s situation. What I said was from a neutral angle, not trying to badmouth China. I have observed a big divide between people from inside China and people who had lived outside of Shanghai and be able to see things at a holistic angle. I can sense that there is a blind optimism among Chinese about everything in China without thinking deeper. That includes many of my own relatives who have been doing well in either business and real estate investment ventures. Some of them told me that today is exactly the time to get into the market, either into stock or into the real estate despite my warnings. I agree that there will be a glorious future for China over the long term, but today we are seeing a bubble, a very big bubble that’s steering our preciouse sweat money into fluffy areas that serve to boost egos than actual quality of living and long-term well beings for this country. Today’s China reminds everybody of the 80s’ Japan, an explosion of self-confidence yet an uncontrollable bubble accomanying it. ?Today’s China doesn’t need more buildings or terminals or bird’s nest, these things won’t raise this country’s industrial food chain. Instead, China needs to steer spendings toward R&D and innovations so that we won’t follow Silicon Valley, or having to manufacture Nike shoes with no profit yet enabling Nike Corp to extract huge profit from it. Despite that China has become a world factory, it has actually been pushed further down the ladder of global profit food chain. Chinese manufacturing facilities are being owned or taken over by the global conglomerates with the so called minor ownerships, further suffocating Chinese innovative capability. The most alarming sign is that many high tech or science major university graduates can’t get a satisfying R&D jobs, in the end, they will be forced to accept a job that’s not really using their trained skills. Currently, there is a huge waste from education systems. This is exactly due to the lowering of food chain for our industries.

    Yet, many regular people are only seeing those ego-boasting skyscrapers, being blinded by this ego explosion similar to what Japanese was experiencing back in the 80s, remember, Japanese’ confidence was much bigger than that for current Chinese psychology. One good development is that SSE’s A share has been cut by half, that’s a good waking up to the reality. A bust of real estate bubble will even be better for China over the long term.

  17. i hope i could conquer english someday, can you give me some sugguest on how to study english? thanks.

  18. to Gao,

    I don’t think you can conquer english if you were not staying abroad from an early age. But you always can become better on english:)

  19. It will take a long usage of English to slowly get better at it. Like Mr. Wang jianshuo, he’s been writing English blog for many years. I can see very big improvements in his writing skills since the blog was first launched.

  20. I was born in China.

    I love my motherland.

    But, I am sorry –

    I don’t want China to become too powerful, unless justice is restored in this country.

  21. I have observed a big divide between people from inside China and people who had lived outside of Shanghai and be able to see things at a holistic angle. I can sense that there is a blind optimism among Chinese about everything in China without thinking deeper. That includes many of my own relatives who have been doing well in either business and real estate investment ventures. Some of them told me that today is exactly the time to get into the market, either into stock or into the real estate despite my warnings.



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  22. I feel optimistic about China. Mega-Projects are exciting and many have the potential (especially rail and roads) to dramatically affect the economy. I am from Boston, where we recently completed the “Big Dig”, which was called by many “the last [American] Mega-Project.” Of course there are always questions about whether or not such large amounts of money could be better spent, though I notice that these are all transportation projects, which almost everyone agrees are a big part of an efficient economy.

    Finally, I hate Heathrow airport, and much prefer Hongqiao to Pudong, though I still like Pudong better than Heathrow. But there are a lot of people in China, and probably a few big airports is better for the environment and the sanity of the people who live in a city than a million small ones. PD almost makes the inconvenient size into a poignant sense of alienation rather than just being a ratty mess with extremely low ceilings (every time I go to Heathrow, I thank god that Yao Ming plays basketball in the US instead of in England. He would probably have to use a wheelchair to get around that airport. I haven’t seen the new Heathrow terminal, though.)

  23. chinese people are laughing at us, Canadians. I am glad that our

    prime minister Mr. Harper didn’t go to the ouverture of Beijing 08.

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