China to build $463 million airport on an island that is the closest point to Taiwan

If you look at a map of the Taiwan straight, the closest point between the mainland and Taiwan is Pingtay island.

And if you use Google maps to zoom in really close to the east coast of Pingtay island you’ll see there are two tiny islets off the coast called Dasha and Xiaosha.

China is planning to build a large airport there as a logistics hub for trade with Taiwan:

China is preparing to build an airport on land claimed from the sea near Taiwan, local media reported on Tuesday, as Beijing moves ahead with plans to integrate development with the island amid political tension…

According to Minxi Daily, the airport will cost about 3 billion yuan (US$463 million) and will be built on land claimed from the sea as part of Fujian’s plan to transform Pingtan island into a transport and logistics hub.

It is not clear when construction will start, but the newspaper said once completed, the airport would serve as a major aviation and logistics hub with access to Taiwan.

A recent brief from a DC think-tank called the Jamestown Foundation says all of China’s construction in the area is intended to be dual-use, i.e. both civil and military.

In accordance with Beijing’s military-civil fusion (MCF) (军民融合, junmin ronghe) strategy, the new transportation infrastructure constructed on and around Pingtan has been built with military mobility in mind. To give one example, the eight-lane, two-way ring road that encircles the island was built with several exits to military facilities to enhance troops’ rapid response capabilities (China National Defense News, January 25, 2016). Military officials and defense experts have reportedly participated in the planning for the island’s development, and the military helped construct the island’s high-speed ro-ro ferry terminal. Pingtan’s highways, railway station and airport have all been designed with the consideration of military needs such as wartime protective camouflage; resistance to destruction and repair and restoration (China National Defense News, April 1, 2015; Fznews.com.cn, December 9, 2018).

Finally, Taiwan News reports Taiwan is well aware of what China’s cross-strait developments are meant to communicate.

The plans have the full-throated support of Chinese leader Xi Jinping (習近平), who in March told Fujian officials to “be bold in exploring new paths for integrated cross-strait development,” according to the report. Over the years, these “new paths” have been equal parts absurd and sinister, such as in 2016, when China proposed building a bridge all the way to Taiwan’s main island through Pingtan.

The intended recipient of these boondoggles, Taiwan, has made clear it rejects any attempts to aggressively entwine it into the infrastructure of a hostile foreign power.

China continues to move toward the goal of reunification with Taiwan, something Xi Jinping talked up earlier this year. I guess the good news is that, for now, they seem to be only taking incremental steps toward that goal.