Any time China announces they’re interested in getting into a market, people perk up and listen. I guess having over 1 billion people will do that for you.
So when China said they wanted to get into the commercial aircraft manufacturing business, I would assume Boeing and Airbus started drawing up battle plans. It may sound crazy now, but think back to the 1970s for a little perspective. At the time, Airbus was just getting started with their first plane, the A300. Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, and Lockheed all scoffed at their attempt. Fast forward and you know the rest of the story. Lockheed pulled out of the commercial market and McDonnell Douglas was swallowed by Boeing. Now the company that was laughed at in the 1970s has proven to be Boeing’s only true competitor.
There’s no reason that same thing can’t happen with China. The country has a very large sphere of influence and could likely sell aircraft through Asia, Africa, and South America with just a little political pressure. If they create a truly impressive plane, low prices and financing deals could make this take off very quickly. The idea of flying on a Chinese-made plane may sound funny now, but let’s see how it sounds in 20 years.
I believe it will happen just as Airbus did. They will build a medium size aircraft and then other types to follow as the company gains customers and experience. However, in our lifetime I doubt they would ever pose anysort of real threat to Boeing and Airbus, with their quality and efficiency. The Russians tried it with a few manufactures(Illusyian, Tupoleve, and Antonov) and it never effected the West. Those countries at the time could not afford expensive aircraft with their types of economies. The same will be true for communist Asia. The vast majority of their poeple are terribly poor.
I’m a China expert by education and have a bit of insight into this issue.
Your and Boeing’s instincts are not unfounded, but if I were in charge of dreaming up Boeing’s business plan, I wouldn’t yet pump a great deal of money into trying to head off a Chinese bombardment of the market.
Much of this rhetoric is face-saving in nature, as China knows that it isn’t yet on the radar screen as a manufacturer of commercial aircraft, and this is no doubt a minor point of shame (since strong economic performance is generally the hallmark of countries/regions with healthy aircraft manufacturing industries).
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that China or its people are too poor to create aircraft that could compete with Western models–they have the human and financial capital to do so–but in practical terms, it is likely not on top of their list of priorities (a list that includes landing a man on the moon by 2020 and building an auto industry that competes with other Asian and Western models for worldwide market share).
There will probably be a small amount of money devoted to research, and as the previous poster hinted, there may even be a couple of half-hearted attempts at production. Ultimately–and we’re talking 25-50 years down the road–China may invest fully in robust production of commercial aircraft, but for the moment, I see the rhetoric out of Beijing as typical posturing, lest anybody mistake China for not having its finger on the pulse of the commercial aviation world.
We are 10 years on from when this was originally posted. It would be interesting to have your take on this from a 2017 perspective.
Great find, Andy. I guess my take is that nothing has changed yet. China has yet to put out an airplane that anyone cares about outside the country. But it still has big plans. I think we may need to wait another 10 years until the full 20 have passed to see if there’s anything here!