Fallows, James M. China Airborne. New York: Pantheon Books, 2012.
Fallows, James M. China Airborne. New York: Pantheon Books, 2012. – photo Russ Imrie 2013
Why should you read this book? Well, you should read this if you are at all interested in China. It’s written in Fallows’ “Atlantic” style, where he has been journalist as well as written for the New Yorker and NPR. So it’s bright and dead air is hard to find.
Each page has facts or an aside every American could stand reading. Fallows plants facts and insight everywhere—like the population reality that China deals with in a diverse and massive country…He’s been there.
…that the U.S. and China encompass approximately the same land area but that with vast mountain and desert regions, China has quite a significantly smaller arable land base; that one must consider it would take the sum of the populations of Mexico (110m), Brazil (200m), Cuba, all the Caribbean Nations, Canada, Colombia, every other Nation in North and South America (total about 1B) plus Nigeria (155m) plus Japan (125m) to almost equal to China’s 1.5 billion.
Philosophically, this work addresses one of the great questions of modern times: what model will move civilization forward on this globalized planet? The open, chaotic, and democratic model that the western-centric democracies seem to be embracing? or the authoritarian single-party (Communist in this case) top-down government model of decreed agendas that The People’s Republic of China follows today.
Fallows posits that the absolute need, economically driven, for China to conform to a world-class air-traffic control and manufacturing system will inevitably bleed over into the wider society and systems. Standards such as high-speed rail development and safety standards, environmental technology, high-value electronic manufacturing, and even the odd double standard Chinese press operates under—where English language newspapers like the Economic Observer operate in conformance with the censors’ patronizing assumption that Chinese readers (even those born and raised in the West) won’t “get it” while in-country publications such as Southern Weekend are ‘way over-controlled, tends to work toward cracking open China’s incestuous leadership and its parochial regulatory system.
Fun and free excitement!
China’s “build it and they will come” MO (an artifact of central [mis]planning, and an urgent need to keep low and semi-skilled workers employed as well as to distribute what we in the U.S. would call “pork”, results in not a few empty developments, and in one case, a modern airport in Tibet that was virtually useless due to geography and local climatic/weather conditions.
On page 179, Fallows treats us to a section of the epic first-ever landing at the storied (and basically inaccessible by the existing Chinese air traffic control system, such as it was) with a link to Nevarus (acquired by GE) and thus this YouTube video in a tour-de-force demonstration of modern, world-class Required Navigation Performance (RNP)
Access on Top of the World: Linzhi (Air China Test Flight) 国航-林芝