B&R by the Numbers: Civil aviation cooperation builds new Silk Road in the air

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth installment of Belt and Road Portal's special series on the Belt and Road Big Data Report 2017.

China’s connectivity with countries along the Belt and Road routes has improved markedly this year compared with 2016, according to the Belt and Road Big Data Report 2017 published by the State Information Center.

According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China, by the end of May, direct air routes had connected 26 provincial regions in China (84 percent of the total number), with 43 countries along the extended Belt and Road, with 240 new air routes opened in 2016.

Shanghai, Beijing, Guangdong, Sichuan and Fujian have the most air links in this regard.

CAAC also announced on Oct. 27 that 113 more international air routes connecting countries along the Belt and Road routes will be opened by Chinese and foreign airlines for the new season starting from Oct. 29, 2017 to Mar. 24, 2018.

Camels and sailing boats linked China and the West through the ancient Silk Road on land and sea. Now, the Silk Road has moved into the air.

The opening-up policy and measures play an important role in boosting the fast development of aviation infrastructure facilities. China held bilateral aviation meeting with 21 countries along the Belt and Road routes from 2014 to 2016, expanding the market, including the opening of Urumqi, Xi’an and Kunming, all air transport hubs, to certain countries.

CAAC and the International Civil Aviation Organization signed a letter of intent on cooperation at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing last May, vowing to create synergies between ICAO’s “No Country Left Behind” campaign with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

This includes deeper cooperation on the facilitation of air transport, and making joint efforts to promote the development of the civil aviation cause in countries and regions covered by the Belt and Road Initiative.

By the end of last December, China had signed bilateral inter-governmental air transport agreements with 120 countries and regions, among which 62 are within the BRI purview. It also inked its first regional air transport agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Southeast Asia is a region with high connectivity with China, with Thailand having the largest air transport volume. Last year, nearly 14 million passenger trips were recorded between China and Thailand, followed by about five million with Singapore and nearly four million with Malaysia, according to the report. CAAC’s data shows China has 146 air routes linking Thailand’s main airports, 60 air routes with Vietnam, and about 40 air routes with Malaysia, Russia and Cambodia respectively.

The construction of the aerial Silk Road involves comprehensive improvement of aviation-related manufacturing, hub construction, air transport, flight maintenance and the aviation financial industry.

CAAC is also building cooperation platforms with African and Central Asian countries. The China-Africa civil aviation college in Mauritius is now under construction. Chinese enterprises are or have been participating in the construction of nearly 40 civil aviation infrastructure projects in more than 20 countries along the Belt and Road routes.

Chinese companies have improved their research and development and manufacturing ability through purchasing foreign aero-engine and aircraft manufacturing companies. It is believed aviation manufacturing will become one of China’s most competitive industries in the world after nuclear power energy and the high-speed railway.

CAAC offers scholarship to aviation trainees from nearly 20 countries along the Belt and Road routes. Last year, 148 pilots from 10 countries completed a total of 13,000 hours of simulator flight training offered by China Southern Airlines, CAAC said. 

Editor: liuyue