China wants to build passenger planes

Scott Tong Mar 19, 2007
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China wants to build passenger planes

Scott Tong Mar 19, 2007
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SCOTT JAGOW: Over the weekend, the Chinese government said it plans to get into the business of making passenger airplanes. That’s the province of Boeing and Airbus. But China believes it can compete with those guys. We turn now to our correspondent in Shanghai, Scott Tong. Scott, why does China wanna do this in the first place?

SCOTT TONG: There’s a lot of prestige on the line here. Don’t forget that Beijing has the Olympics coming up next year. And the idea is that it really wants to have national champions in a lot of sectors, particularly these high-profile sectors like airplanes and aviation. It’s not unlike space travel, where there’s this ambitious plan in China to go to the moon. And the idea is to show that, yes, we can play with the big boys in the world.

JAGOW: Well, obviously, there’s also a huge market here that China could be serving. So, there’s also the business part of this.

TONG: Well, we hear this in just about every sector — kind of, fill in the blank, China is this emerging, giant consumer market. And, I saw . . . What I lot of people tell me about is there are a lot of first-time travellers here. They’re just getting into the market. And a lot of people on this plane I was on were snapping pictures of the rows, and the picture of the bathroom. And the opportunity here is, going forward, there are just going to be hundreds of millions of those first-time travellers needing an airplane to go on. So, if you think about it, does China want to import planes from Airbus or Boeing to serve its market, or does it want to have domestic companies that are producing these airplanes?

JAGOW: All right, well, obviously it sounds like they have good reasons to get into this market. Do they have the technology? Can they pull it off?

TONG: It’s a big question mark, at least as I talked to people today. Now, we are talking 20 years down the road, is what the government is talking about here. The technology is already starting to develop here. China already makes these narrow-body regional planes. And they make certain parts for the big planes. So, they are getting there. And one economist told me, if you look back 20 years, to where China has come, you don’t want to underestimate where China may be able to go in the future.

JAGOW: OK, Scott Tong, our correspondent in China. Thank you.

TONG: All right, Scott. Thanks.

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