BEIJING — Rising out of the farmlands of southern Beijing in a web of concrete, rebar and glass, one of the world’s largest airports is preparing to open after just five years of construction — a striking contrast to the infrastructure travails of far richer places. (See: New York City, subway; Britain, train service; Berlin, airport.)Just as impressive as its speed are the airport’s broader goals. It is meant to shift the Chinese capital’s center of gravity away from its high-tech university district in the north toward its poorer southern suburbs — part of an even more ambitious plan to remake Beijing and its hinterland into an 82,000-square-mile economic locomotive for northern China. And it will do so by relocating thousands of residents with few protests, at least so far.Yet the airport also reflects a less glamorous side of China’s rapid change: a reliance on the heavy hand of big infrastructure as a salve for deeper problems in politics and economics.These intractable problems include an overbearing military, whose dominance of Chinese airspace hobbles existing airports, as well as a broad retreat from market-driven economic reforms, leading to a dependence on infrastructure investment to increase growth. “In China everything is related to economic development,” said Guo Yufeng, chief executive of Q&A Consulting, a China-based aviation advisory firm that has studied the new airport.“They needed something to drive growth.”Cue the new airport.Scheduled to open next September, the Beijing Daxing International Airport will lift China’s capital into the stratosphere of aviation superlatives. The golden, starfish-shaped terminal designed by the Iraqi-British star architect Zaha Hadid, who died in 2016, is billed as the world’s largest at 7.5 million square feet (700,000 square meters) but promises short walking distances despite its size.By 2025, the airport will be able to serve 72 million passengers a year. That, along with the existing Beijing Capital International Airport’s annual capacity of 96 million passengers, would make Beijing one of the world’s busiest city airport systems, rivaling for top spot the 170 million carried by London’s six airports, based on 2017 figures. Ultimately, Daxing is expected to handle 100 million passengers a year.One reason for the new airport is rapidly increasing passenger volumes, which rose in 2017 by nearly 13 percent nationwide. Aviation experts say, however, that at least some of this could be handled with existing infrastructure, were it not for the military’s heavy hand.With roughly 70 percent of airspace controlled by the military (versus 20 percent in the United States), commercial aircraft flying in China are limited to narrow tunnels in the sky. This restricts options for departure and arrival routing, cutting the number of takeoffs and landings that airports can handle.Beijing Capital, for example, was the world’s second-busiest airport based on passenger volume in 2017, but it ranked fifth based on takeoffs and landings, nearly a third fewer than the world leader, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.The lack of airspace is also a key reason delays are so common in China. Last year, flight delays increased 50 percent, with only 71 percent of flights taking off on time, according to government statistics. That’s helped push Chinese airlines to the bottom of punctuality rankings, with one study ranking three Chinese airlines as the worst among 20 large-scale carriers.Although aviation authorities blame the weather for half of the delays, Mr. Guo of Q&A Consulting said the underlying cause was the military-induced lack of airspace.When a corridor is blocked by a thunderstorm, for example, Chinese flight controllers often cannot reroute an airplane, because it would have to enter military airspace. That causes planes to sit on the ground or fly holding patterns when in other countries they could land or take off.“The congestion takes place in the sky because the military only allows for a certain number of tunnels,” Mr. Guo said. “If that doesn’t change, the ground infrastructure needs to be expanded.”The new airport will help by initially opening four, then up to eight, new runways in the suburb of Daxing, 41 miles southwest of Beijing Capital. The number of air corridors available for civilian use stays the same, but the new runways will provide airlines with more ways to gain access to this limited airspace, allowing the Beijing area to facilitate more flights.The biggest challenge in building new airports is usually land, said Jean-Paul Rodrigue, who studies global infrastructure at Hofstra University.“Size is just a matter of scaling up — you hire a good architect and a few consulting firms and they’ll give you a nice design,” Professor Rodrigue said. “But the major challenge is to find the piece of real estate in order to do that. It’s mind-boggling how much this takes.”Beijing Daxing occupies 18 square miles of land, more than two-thirds the size of Manhattan, in southern Beijing and the adjacent province of Hebei. It’s trumpeted as a key part of the “Jing-Jin-Ji” economic development plan, which will unite Beijing, Hebei, and the port city of Tianjin into an economic region to rival the country’s more prosperous economic hubs, Shanghai and Guangzhou.Obtaining this land wasn’t a problem, because in China all land is owned by the state. Protests do occur in China when communities are razed to make way for megaprojects — especially in years past, when some people killed themselves rather than lose their homes.But decades of forced evictions seem to have taught both sides some lessons.For residents, it’s the futility of opposition.“Who wants to leave?” said Li Zhengu, a resident of Ligezhuang village, one of 11 that are being demolished, along with 24 others where people are being moved to avoid noise. “But there wasn’t any discussion.”Indeed, local media reported little about the relocation of more than 20,000 people, let alone broader questions about whether the increased traffic could be handled by Beijing Capital if the military loosened its grip on airspace. Instead, the new airport was portrayed as further proof of China’s rise.Besides clamping down on public discussion, the government is offering what residents say are generous packages. Residents say that on average, they are getting 50 square meters per person in living space, $150,000 per family in one-time compensation and a monthly stipend of $300 to cover basic living costs.Mr. Li said the money was fair, but added: “Then you don’t have land to grow on. And you have to figure out a new life.”As he spoke, a live broadcast echoed through the village: “Don’t complain,” a male voice said through large loudspeakers. “You could influence the entire village’s stability.”Stability, though, can be defined in other ways.Chen Zhen, a 29-year-old data processor at a local bank, said the older generation in his family was stunned by the destruction of their family home.“In my family, I’m fine, but my octogenarian grandma, she spent her whole life painstakingly building the courtyard home, one brick and one tile at a time,” Mr. Chen said. “Afterward, we didn’t dare go back to look.”Five minutes down the road is the village of Qigezhuang, which would lie in such a noisy area that it would no longer be habitable. Its brick-and-tiled courtyard homes were flattened in August. A muddy teddy bear lay on the road, across from old millstones strewn across the rubble.Behind a corrugated fence, an elevated highway curled gracefully toward the orange terminal building in the distance.A late autumn wind crackled through the yellowing leaves, drowning out the enormous dump trucks and backhoes in the distance and making the scene seem unreal — that someone, somewhere, had decided that one way of life would end and another would begin.