How China is using infra as ‘tool’ of its expansionist intentions

Beijing is using infrastructure and connectivity as its tools to somehow enmesh Tibet and Xinjiang – the two autonomous regions — into its fabric and link them with the rest of China.

One of the most visible elements of China’s infrastructure investments in Tibet and Xinjiang has been the construction and upgradation of airports and heliports. It offers PLA additional platforms to launch airborne surveillance and reconnaissance missions, as well as strikes and counterstrikes in case of conflicts, a platform named China Power reported.

Citing satellite imagery and other open-source material, China Power has identified 37 airports and heliports within Tibet and Xinjiang that have been newly constructed or upgraded since 2017. At least 22 of these are identifiable as military or dual-use facilities or are expected to be once they are completed.

Since 2017, China has initiated upgrades (such as new terminals, hangars, aprons, and runways) at all five of Tibet’s existing airports. All five of these airports are military and civilian dual-use facilities.

Similar developments are taking place in Xinjiang as well. At least 15 airports have been upgraded in Xinjiang since 2017, with seven of these being military or dual-use facilities.

However, China still faces certain difficulties owing to the fact that much of China’s side of the border is situated on the highest portions of the Tibetan Plateau

According to China Power, the PLA faces major operational challenges associated with operating at such high altitudes. The thinner atmosphere makes it more difficult for aircraft to take off.

China is coupling its expansion of air infrastructure in Tibet and Xinjiang with new roads, rail, and other ground transportation infrastructure.

“Beijing hopes that by enhancing connectivity within the regions–and better linking them with the rest of China–it can enmesh the two autonomous regions more securely into China’s social and economic fabric,” the report stated.

Tibet and Xinjiang have historically lagged in most other parts of China in terms of overall economic development, but especially infrastructure.

According to official figures, Tibet’s highway system grew 51 per cent between 2015 and 2020–from 7,840 km to 11,820 km–faster than the growth rate of any other province, region, or municipality. Xinjiang’s network of highways has expanded at a fast clip as well, growing from 17,830 km in 2015 to 20,920 km in 2020, China Power reported.

However, many of the new roads and highways being built are connecting major regional hubs to remote areas on China’s borders. In western Xinjiang, for example, China is constructing at least eight roads stretching from the major G219 national highway toward the China-India LAC.

China’s national economic blueprint for 2021-2025, the 14th Five Year Plan, also laid out a goal of strengthening the construction of ‘strategic backbone corridors’ out of Xinjiang and into Tibet.

Shigatse Peace Airport, situated in a valley approximately 155 km north of the China-India border is an important PLAAF base at the dual-use Shigatse Peace Airport. At the existing portion of the airport, to the east, there is a large military presence, and several new upgrades have also been made. At the main military terminal and tarmac, 10 probable J-11 multirole fighter jets are present.

Nyingchi Mainling Airport, which is situated approximately 490 km east of Shigatse Peace Airport lies another major hub of Chinese military power. This site, centred on Nyingchi Mainling Airport, is located just 15 km from China’s border with the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Immediately adjacent to the new garrison facility, the PLA has constructed a large new motor vehicle maintenance and storage facility, as well as a new complex for training troops. The training facility includes bunkers, trenches, bridges, and various obstacles for practising manoeuvres on foot and in vehicles.

In addition to these upgrades, a large SAM base had been constructed on a nearby ledge sitting approximately 50 meters above the surrounding facilities.

These examples show how behind the rapid infrastructural focus, lies the Chinese intentions of bring the autonomous regions into its expansionist fold.

Do you love solving puzzles?

Join our community and solve the Puzzling fun with our range of crosswords

image of various puzzles image of background wavy graphic

AM Live

AM Live is NTV's morning current affairs show that sets the agenda for the day with insightful panels every weekday.

Business Redefined

Business Redefined is Kenya’s premier thought leadership platform for unpacking matters regarding economic and finance policy as well demystifying complex developments in the region’s capital markets.

Daily Politics

This is Daily Politics. Here we look into the ins and outs of everything Kenyan politics. We pull no punches and have no reason to sugarcoat anything that matters to Kenyans.


A collection of our premium content. Diam curabitur vehicula A collection of our premium content. Diam curabitur vehicula

Full Episodes

A collection of our premium content. Diam curabitur vehicula A collection of our premium content. Diam curabitur vehicula

Gumzo La Sato

Gumzo La Sato is a live social issues show that aims to create awareness about issues affecting the larger society. The discussions range from Parenting, Marital bliss and struggles, Oppression, violence, and all matters of the Heart.

Health Diary

Health Diary is a weekly show that highlights different types of diseases/conditions and seeks ways to prevent, treat/manage them. The show debunks this through real life stories and also feature specialists in different fields, to offer medical advice on the same.

Letter To My Younger Self

Letter To My Younger Self is a podcast where guests get to write a letter to their younger self, from which Maxine formulates questions to ask them during the hour-long show.

Mazao Talks

Mazao looks at agriculture and agribusiness

Nation Reports

Nation Reports is a weekly podcast offers an opportunity for listeners to interact with various reporters and journey with them as they unravel the biggest most emotive stories.

Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost peeks through the story of Louis Otieno, the times, and everything in between.



Speaking of GEN Z

Speaking of Gen Z brings you entertaining but meaningful conversations about a generation that is trying to navigate through adulthood. Join hosts Michelle, Jackie and Esther as they unravel all things Gen Z.


Sport-On is a 30-minute sports magazine show on NTV and 3 hours on NATION FM. The show seeks to give the sports “fanatics” and “funatics” comprehensive and in-depth coverage of sports both locally and internationally.


Thamani is a business show which is dedicated to emerging issues regarding micro, small and medium size businesses.

The Trend

A two-hour-long live show that airs on Fridays. The show focuses on what is current in the entertainment industry, controversial and popular across all media platforms targeting those aged between 25 and 35 years.

The trend podcast

The trend podcast highlights and captures the best of banter from #TTTT segment that airs every Friday on NTV. It's the TTTT EXTRA

The Wicked Edition

The Wicked Edition with Dr. King’ori seeks to address serious issues through humour and relatable wit. It is a two-part half hour show filmed in front of a live audience


A collection of our premium content. Diam curabitur vehicula A collection of our premium content. Diam curabitur vehicula


Twende is a travel show that highlights beautiful, unique, diverse locations, people, and cultures. The show offers fresh perspectives on familiar locations and memorable experiences in new ones.


This Saturday evening lifestyle show lets viewers share their stories and life experiences as openly & honestly for the purpose of shifting the culture of silence.

VIP Access

VIP ACCESS is Anyiko Owoko’s YouTube and podcast show on Music and Culture dedicated to promoting Africa’s most promising talent and creatives. This podcast grants you VIP access into timeless interviews while providing a platform for rising as well as established artists across the continent. Since launching in 2018, Anyiko has interviewed over 70 African music stars.


This weekly news show aims to have all sides of debate but not be constrained by it, listen to main voices in the contest but not allow them to hold the viewers hostage, entertain debate but allow push back with all due respect.

When death do us part

In this podcast, three widowers openly speak about the process of grief, how they found themselves exposed to the emotional turmoil of losing their wives, and how society still does not know how to deal with them.

Your World

Your World is a health, wellness and variety show. It provides a platform for audiences and experts to share their experiences on how to improve or manage health issues, across Kenya and the Africa region.