Changing China

Giant on the move

New Beijing airport terminal

June 26, 2008

A night view shows Beijing’s new airport terminalA hot topic conversation these days amongst my friends is Beijing’s enormous new airport terminal, often incorrectly referred to as the new airport.

And opinions are very divided. It generates strong views — people either love it, or hate it. There seems to be little middle ground.

Personally, I’m not a fan. For a start, it’s way too big. To get to and from the international section, you have to take a little train. Fun if you have the time, but a drag if you are in a hurry to get out of the airport and on with your life.

The much vaunted promises of better shops and restaurants also appear to have been ignored, aside from the arrival of the city’s first Burger King outlet, a much welcome addition.

At least when it comes to one gripe, poor serivce, the message does seem to be getting through to some of the staff ahead of the Beijing Olympics. On a recent flight, the lady checking me in gave me a broad smile once I had completed the proceedures, and wished me a pleasant trip. It was such a surprise, it put me in a good mood for the rest of the day.

Still, I have found a way to avoid all the problems associated with the new terminal — use the two older ones. Since Terminal Three opened, Terminals One and Two have been relatively deserted. A view of the interior of Beijing International Airport's new terminal on the outskirts of Beijing

They are much more compact, making getting to and from the gate a breeze, have a good selection of restaurants in the basement, and there are still a large number of destinations you can fly to from there.

The international side of Terminal Two these days is especially unhurried.  So my suggestion? Sure, go and admire the amazing architecture of Terminal Three, but when it comes to flying, stick with the much nicer old terminals.  

Photos by China Daily (top) and Jason Lee.


Hey Ben,
going to the airport is not exactly like going to mcdonald’s. at mcdonald’s i can sit where i like but at the airport i cannot choose the terminal or gate where my airflight originates or arrives. and i certainly would never go to the beijing airport just to enjoy the restaurants or architecture. i avoid most chinese ‘scenic sites’ like the plague but please, feel free to enjoy the daily company of the tens of thousands of locals who do ‘enjoy’.

Posted by jobin | Report as abusive

I went there the other day to take some pictures for my website. It looks nice because it is new, but to be honest it is nothing too spectacular. The addition of some restaurants is nice. It also seemed to be fairly quiet which was surprising.


The Olympics are just around the corner and the relief efforts in SiChuan are endeavours worthy of praise. China’s newly constructed cities of steel and chrome are things of beauty, sitting on top of rubbles of brick, mortar and wood. If you look a little deeper, however, underneath the newly gilded exterior, you might notice people, China’s people, oozing with blood.

In the effort to construct these beautiful monstrocities, China’s had to make a lot of changes. They’ve torn down thousand year old buildings, moved businesses, moved homes, moved families, and moved people. And the ones doing the dirty work? The construction companies. I’m sure everyone reading this has heard of the word “Chai Qian”, meaning to take apart in an organized fashion. Well, it’s not organized!

Construction companies hire hoodlums off of the street, arm them with 2 by 4′s, and send them out to homes in droves, “asking” the residents to move out. The hoodlums smash into homes and bring papers for the residents to sign, with wordings that few, if any, can understand. Those who sign are given a couple hundred dollars and shooed off of the Company’s new property. And the ones who don’t sign, the ones who just want to be left alone? They’re beaten. It doesn’t matter if the residents are children, elderly, retired, or employed; they’re all beaten with the brutality and voracity of convicts out to make money.

All in an effort to make China more beautiful.

And the construction companies? They build high rises in places of the ugly old buildings, adding a new shadow to the hazy smog filled skyline. Selling each square meter of property for thousands times more than what they paid. It’s not politics, it’s not people, it’s just business as usual.

I can’t say that I’m completely unbiased because this morning I got a call and found out that my aunt was beaten by several of these hoodlums. She’s a retired musician in Nanjing, and like many of her neighbors, she just wants to keep her home. And now she’s fighting for her life in the hospital because she suffered head trauma at the hands of these thugs.

My reason for writing is in hopes that one of you (an actual reporter) will read this and go to the 454 Hospital in Nanjing and interview at least a couple of the residents who were beaten today and get their side of the story.

Jeremy Guo

Posted by Jeremy Guo | Report as abusive

Mr. Blanchard,
I wanted to point out that Isreal has also sent a man to space. He was on board the shuttle that broke up ovet Texas a few years ago.

Posted by Marc | Report as abusive

Hey Ben,

That was some very irresponsible reporting on your part about the wolf captured near the Great Wall in China. You included the asinine comments by Chinese authorities citing fears of the wolf around tourists, but you neglected to ask an expert if that was an unfounded fear; which it is by all means.

And here I thought reporters were supposed to research their stories, and be fair and balanced in their reporting.

Thanks for propagating a 700 year myth.

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive

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