American professor helps develop aerotropolis in central China


Photos taken on December 10, 2012 show different sights of Zhengzhou Xinzheng

International Airport.   Photos by Li Bo




American professor helps develop 

aerotropolis in central China


By Fang Dong and  Gui Juan


John H. Kasarda


Clutching a pile of design sketches and watching planes pass by, American professor John H. Kasarda is mapping out China’s first aerotropolis.

Kasarda, a professor at the University of North Carolina, the founder of the aerotropolis theory, and an expert in aviation economics, is now serving as a consultant to help Zhengzhou, capital city of central China’s Henan Province, build itself into an aviation-oriented metropolis.

He believes that in the future, cities will be oriented around a central airport. Around that airport, clusters of aviation-linked businesses and associated residential developments will crop up, marking the next step in globalization.

Zhengzhou was approved as the nation’s first air economic zone by the State Council, China’s Cabinet, early this year. Since then, it has been on a fast track of transitioning from a railway-pivoted economy to an aerotropolis.

The construction of a modern aerotropolis covering 356 square km is currently under way, with Zhengzhou Xinzheng International Airport at its center.

Guo Gengmao, secretary of the Henan provincial committee of the Communist Party of China, has recommended Kasarda’s book, “Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next,” to the province’s 2 million officials.

“What attracts me the most is the understanding by Zhengzhou City and Henan Province government leaders of the potential the aerotropolis model has for their region and their strong will to move forward in applying the model,” Kasarda said.

“I first learned about Zhengzhou and its economic potential when doing research on China four years ago. However, it wasn’t until the past three times that I fully appreciated just how dynamic and promising Zhengzhou is,” he said.

Dubbed “Super Ka” by local media, he has become somewhat of a local celebrity. He said he feels like the hero of his favorite movie, “Up In The Air” — a frequent flyer enjoying his life full of air travel.

“I am currently focusing exclusively on Zhengzhou and its Airport Comprehensive Experimental Zone,” he said, praising the city’s historic culture, great foundation of labor forces and how easily it connects to other parts of China.

Zhengzhou has a great location advantage, as it takes only about an hour and a half to travel to two-thirds of China’s cities that hold three-fifths of the nation’s population.

Worldwide, some aerotropolises, including those in Amsterdam, Chicago, Dubai and Hong Kong, have become a significant driving force for the economy, according to Kasarda.

Despite the lackluster world economy, enthusiasm for developing aertropolises has remained high in China.

Statistics from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) show that the number of airports nationwide will increase to 244 by the end of 2020, 61 more than in 2012.

Altogether, 54 air economic zones are planned to be built around the country, a 2012 CAAC report suggests.

“Aerotropolis development is more like a marathon than a hundred-meter dash,” he advised the city planners, adding that achieving the goal requires 1 percent vision and 99 percent hard work.

“With intelligent planning and dedicated efforts, Zhengzhou has a real opportunity to get its aerotropolis right, and in so doing, generate a remarkably positive economic impact on the city, the province, the nation, and perhaps surrounding countries,” Kasarda added.  





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