Friday 08 Oct 2021 | 08:00 | SYDNEY
Friday 08 Oct 2021 | 08:00 | SYDNEY

China flight of ambition


Sam Roggeveen


19 May 2009 18:34

Ben Sandilands runs a very good aviation blog for Crikey, and he's right today to note the symbolism of the first flight of a Chinese-assembled Airbus A320. It is a milestone toward China's ambition to become an independent player in a field now dominated by Airbus and Boeing — building 120- seat jetliners.

China has already unveiled an indigenous regional jetliner and has announced its intention to build a competitor to the A320 and 737. In the meantime, China can learn a lot by bolting together Airbus planes.

Quite why China wants to join the Boeing-Airbus club is a bit of a mystery. Sandilands argues China wants to own and control major technologies in aviation and space rather than buying them from abroad. That has certainly been the pattern in China's defence sector, which has moved gradually over the last decade from a heavy dependence on Russian imports to development of indigenous systems.

You can see the logic when it comes to defence technology. You'd prefer other countries didn't know your military secrets, and didn't have the option to stop the supply of spares at a time of tension.

But that logic doesn't apply to civil aviation, so why go to the massive expense of entering this market to compete with Boeing and Airbus? I can only think there is a prestige factor at play. The Chinese certainly aren't above a little nationalist-technological posturing — there's the manned space program, for instance. And China would certainly not be the only country that subsidises a prestige national manufacturer.