PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2019, Vol. 38 ›› Issue (7): 963-972.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2019.07.002

• Special Column: the Belt and Road Initiative • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Spatial pattern and change of China’s international air transport network since the Belt and Road Initiative

Fangye DU1,2(), Jiaoe WANG1,2,*(), Jiahao XIE3, Delin DU1,2   

  1. 1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Key Laboratory of Regional Sustainable Development Modeling, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta 30332, USA
  • Received:2018-12-21 Revised:2019-04-10 Online:2019-07-28 Published:2019-07-28
  • Contact: Jiaoe WANG;
  • Supported by:
    Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, No. XDA20010101;National Natural Science Foundation of China, No. 41722103.


With the advancement of economic globalization and regional integration, the demands of communica-tion and cooperation among regions increase rapidly. Relying on the unique advantages of speed, accessibility, and convenience, air transportation plays a significant role in the exchange of passenger and cargo among countries. The Belt and Road Initiative was proposed in 2013, which has attracted the attention of the world. Since then, the background of China's development has changed sharply, which brings new development opportunities for the expansion of the country's air transport network and can be shown in the following ways: 1) International tourism as a way of having vacation becomes more popular among people in China, largely due to the rapid increase of income. According to the statistics from China Tourism Administration, the number of outbound tourists increased from 98.2 million in 2013 to 130.51 million in 2017, contributing more passengers for international air transportation. 2) International trade also contributes more to China's prosperous international air transportation. 3) In the Belt and Road Initiative, facility connectivity was proposed as one of the most importance area of cooperation with countries of the region, and air transport network plays an important role in the realization of facility connectivity between countries. However, research on the change of China's international air transport since the proposition of the Belt and Road Initiative is still lacking. To fill this gap, this study analyzed the spatial distribution and change of international air transport network of China in terms of air routes, flights, and navigable cities based on the data of China's international air routes and flights in 2013 and 2018. The results show that: 1) On a whole, in the past five years, the Belt and Road Initiative has not altered the original pattern of China's air transport network, in which navigable cities formed the catchment centered on east and southeast Asia. 2) With regard to countries along the Belt and Road, their importance in China's air transport network is increasing and the numbers of routes and flights are increasing distinctively. 3) The main hub cities in China were Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou in both 2013 and 2018, and more cities became secondary hub cities for different regions. New air transport routes and flights are operated in the existing navigable cities, showing that the direction of China's international air transport development is to deepen the connection with existing navigable countries and cities.

Key words: international air transport network, the Belt and Road Initiative, international air routes, international flights, change