China’s global aviation rivalry

Commercial airplane landing behind waving flag

I wonder how long it will take China to become the world’s biggest aviation market. In addition, should we expect China soon to become the leader in air transport industry? In recent times, the country is marching rapidly towards global supremacy in many domains. My understanding is that firstly, China will establish regional hegemony and then from there to project her authority globally.

My scepticism generates from the fact that in aviation, the stakes are extremely high and the sector rivals are very big players. Thus, are we moving into a “clash of titans” scenario or, perhaps expect to witness the largest commercial transition in aviation history?

China tries to penetrate the world sky market

As part of a bid to become a dominant air transport leader, China concentrated for many years on the development of state owned aircraft. The Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) headquartered in Shanghai, has the mission to develop and produce the country’s large airplanes. In such, COMAC has two principal tasks. On one hand, to terminate the Chinese air transport’s dependency on other providers, mainly Boeing and Airbus. On the other, to put up a strong challenge against other business players. In other words, China tries to penetrate the sky markets in a big way.   

For me, the biggest trial for China will be to enter fittingly regional or viable markets around the globe. The limited types of COMAC aircraft currently in operation (ARJ21, C919), have been certified only by the country’s regulatory authorities. Accordingly then, these airplanes can only fly to and from a limited number of partner countries. Unless leading bodies like EASA, FAA and AACO fully back the certification process, then there is a degree of uncertainty for China to succeed completely. This kind of decisions though are more politically and market reliant than industry determined.

Having said all that, China applies a variety of strategies to spread her influence in world aviation. Mainly through the ‘Belt & Road Initiative’ (BRI), the Chinese government has funded relevant infrastructure projects, building airports and supported vast transport initiatives. In this way, constructed a wide platform that spreads over many countries to accommodate her aviation expansion program.

Taking advantage of the current situation

It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few years. In my opinion, by 2025 we will have clear signs of China’s push to expand operations within global aviation. After this, a ten year phase when Chinese organizations will push to become leading air transport power(s). The ultimate goal will be to achieve a status equal to ICAO and of other agencies. Ultimately, with aviation going through a terrible and disastrous chapter, we should not be surprised if a trend of strong sector performers emerge to lead air transport to recovery. After all, governments and States have been amazingly weak in producing a reclamation road map for the industry.

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