Reporter Journal / William Hennelly

Boeing's China business booming amid tariff-talk turbulence

By William Hennelly (China Daily USA) Updated: 2017-09-14 10:59

While Boeing is usually the first company mentioned as a potential casualty if the US and China engaged in a trade showdown, for now business between the American aircraft giant and China is booming, reciprocal and cordial.

Boeing competes with France's Airbus SE - often mentioned as the likely winner in the event of a US-China trade standoff - to sell passenger jets to Chinese airlines, which is quite the market.

China will need 7,240 new planes valued at almost $1.1 trillion through 2036, Boeing said on Sept 6. That compares with its projections last September for 6,810 aircraft through 2035.

"China's continuous economic growth, significant investment in infrastructure, growing middle class and evolving airline business models support this long-term outlook," Randy Tinseth, vice-president of marketing, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said last week.

"China's fleet size is expected to grow at a pace well above the world average, and almost 20 percent of global new airplane demand will be from airlines based in China," Tinseth said.

Tinseth said China's outbound travel market is trending toward 200 million passengers annually, and more than 50 percent of all the commercial jetliners operating in China are made by Boeing, the company said, which requires a lot of workers.

About 150,000 US aviation jobs depend on the Chinese market, according to Ray Conner, vice-chairman of Boeing.

But Boeing also provides manufacturing and maintenance jobs to Chinese.

China has a component role on every current Boeing commercial airplane - the Next-Generation 737, 747, 767, 777, as well as the world's most technologically advanced airplane, the 787 Dreamliner.

More than 9,000 Boeing airplanes fly around the world with integrated China-built parts and assemblies.

There's big business in aircraft maintenance, too.

On Aug 30, joint venture Boeing Shanghai Aviation Services Co Ltd (Boeing Shanghai) and Xiamen Air celebrated the completion of the first 787-8 base maintenance check, also known as a C-check, and Wi-Fi modification at Pudong Airport.

"We are very pleased with the 787 C-check and Wi-Fi modification performed by Boeing Shanghai," said Tang Jianqi, Xiamen Air general manager of aircraft maintenance and engineering.

A C-check is an extensive review of the airplane's systems and components.

"The successful completion is a testament to Boeing Shanghai's capability in the 787 maintenance and modification market," said Dermot Swan, CEO of Boeing Shanghai.

Xiamen's Dreamliners fly between Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and China's high-tech center of Shenzen.

China Southern Airlines Co is seeking to expand from about 700 planes to more than 1,000 by the end of the decade, while Hainan Airlines is bringing in the Dreamliner to help it launch nonstop flights from smaller Chinese cities.

China itself will likely compete in the next 20 years to supply passenger jets, with Commercial Aircraft Corp of China having conducted the maiden test flight for its C919 narrow-body jet in May. The company says it has received more than 600 orders.

In fact, China's Global Times reported on Monday that the domestically made Changjiang-1000 engine is under development and will eventually replace imported foreign engines for the C919, according to Cao Chunxiao, a researcher with Aero Engine Corp of China Beijing Institute of Aeronautical Materials.

Bloomberg contributed to this story. Contact the writer at

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