Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed China’s support for the construction of a Silk Road in the air between Luxembourg and Zhengzhou, capital of China’s Henan Province, during his meeting with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel in Beijing on June 14.
With the building of the “Air Silk Road,” aviation is set to play an increasingly important part in China’s efforts of enhancing connectivity for world economic growth through the Belt and Road Initiative.
COOPERATION OVER THE PAST THREE YEARS
Cargolux Airlines International’s Boeing 747-8F all-cargo carrier, named Zhengzhou, landed at the Xinzheng International Airport of Zhengzhou, Central China’s Henan Province, on June 27, 2014, marking the official launch of the Zhengzhou-Luxembourg air freight route.
Henan Civil Aviation Development & Investment Co. Ltd purchased 35 percent of stake in the Luxembourg-based cargo airline in April 2014.
Currently, there are 15 flights every week on the air route, which covers nine major cities around the world. A total of 1,365 flights carrying 223,900 tons of freights had been operated by May 2017.
The two companies signed an exclusive freight depot strategic cooperation framework agreement in June 2017 and a plane maintenance base cooperation agreement in June 2015. All these cooperation projects are boosting the construction of the Air Silk Road between the two locations.
WORLDWIDE AVIATION NETWORK
The EK327 flight of Emirates Airlines departed from Hedong International Airport of Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, for the United Arab Emirates early on the morning of May 3, 2017. This flight marks the one-year anniversary of the airline entering Yinchuan.
Many airports in China, like Hedong International Airport, have strengthened their infrastructure construction, expanded their aviation network coverage and increased their transportation capacity, providing strong foundations for building of the Air Silk Road.
Liu Shaoyong, president of China Eastern Airlines, said, “The key to embracing the Belt and Road Initiative for the civil aviation industry is to expedite construction of multi-dimensional aerial corridors between China and countries along the Belt and Road routes.”
By mid-May, the Civil Aviation Administration of China had signed bilateral air transportation agreements with 62 countries taking part in the Belt and Road Initiative, and China has opened direct flights to 43 of these countries with about 4,200 flights every week.
SEA, LAND AND AIR INFRASTRUCTURE CONSTRUCTION
China is supporting the civil aviation infrastructure construction in other countries, while speeding up its own pace of building the Air Silk Road.
China National Aero-Technology International Engineering Corporation finished construction of a 4F-grade runway with the highest level in South Asia at Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport in April. The project, which took only 90 days, improves Sri Lanka’s aviation infrastructure.
Chen Yuan, chairman of the China Association for the Promotion of Development Financing, said that the Air Silk Road construction facilitates international transportation and is a necessary part of the Belt and Road Initiative. Alongside road, sea and railway transport, the air routes make it possible for more countries along the Belt and Road to take part in international labor division and cooperation.