Earlier in May 2017, China’s answer to Airbus and Boeing, the Comac C919 passenger jet, took its first flight ever, live on state-run television. Not surprisingly, this event immediately prompted an outpouring of patriotism and self-satisfaction within the country. Local reporters gushed, and the state media celebrated the flight as “another fulfilment of [the China] dream”.
A Chinese aviation expert predicted that the plane would “rip a hole” in the Boeing-Airbus duopoly, and ordinary Chinese burst with pride. Even the foreign press heralded the accomplishment, the New York Times calling the C919 a symbol of the “industrial might of an emerging superpower”. So much hyperbole for such a rather workaday occurrence. Congratulations are certainly due to the Chinese aerospace industry for getting the C919 off the ground. But the future may not be as bright as it seems, though the West should not take this challenge lightly.
… Richard A. Bitzinger is a Senior Fellow and Coordinator of the Military Transformations Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. An earlier version of this Commentary appeared in Asia Times.
Last updated on 17/05/2017