Infrastructuring Development: Aerial Silk Roads at Two 'Belt and Road' Airports.

Weiqiang Lin, Qi Ai

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticle


The Belt and Road Initiative is widely touted as China’s answer to development through international connectivity. Scholars have often linked the scheme to China’s objectives of crafting a new world order centred on itself and/or stabilizing its economy through externalizing surplus capacity. While important in broadly framing China’s relationship with the world, this article posits that such a fixation on state-centric visions of development leaves open the door for
mistaking the Belt and Road Initiative as being made up of seamless projects imposed ‘from above’. Delving into the grounded execution of infrastructure planning, this article argues that taking a practice approach on large-scale developmental schemes can more accurately shed light on their internally fraught processes. Two airport projects in central China branded as part of the
country’s ‘aerial Silk Roads’ are examined to exemplify these dynamics, with particular attention paid to the airports’ shifting conceptualizations, the competitive motivations behind their (re)construction, and the social relations sustaining them. This article argues that closely tracking the unfolding of a spectrum of infrastructure planning practices within specific projects can
demystify modern-day developmental programmes like the BRI, by revealing how their ‘grand’ visions are often reinterpreted, altered and frustrated at local levels, even before they influence the world.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-41
JournalDevelopment and Change
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 26 Feb 2020

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