Between profit and ambition

Between profit and ambition

China ranks second in the world in terms of economy and first in terms of trade volume. This autumn, five years later than planned, Chinese State Aircraft Industry Group Comac must pass into operation ARJ - the first modern civilian aircraft, independently designed in China. This is pride of aircraft engineers and hope of the Chinese aircraft industry; the abbreviation stands for Advanced Regional Jet 21, Xiangfen - "Flying Phoenix", 21 is for "XXI Century".

If the officials of the State Planning Commission in Beijing will be able to turn their vision into reality, China will also produce pacemakers, industrial surveillance cameras, robotics developed inside the country and widebody jets one day, engines of which will no longer be purchased from General Electric like in case of ARJ21 model.

Beijing shows great ambition. No matter how difficult is to achieve such a goal, after ARJ21 China is obliged to build its own large aircraft, President Xi Jinping said last year at the headquarters of Comac Group in Shanghai. Now the President flies for a state visit by American Boeing 747, and he does not like it. "We used to consider that it is better to rent planes or buy them in other countries, rather than producing our own, - he says. - Today we think differently. We will increase investment to develop our own large aircraft".

Economical aspects related to such intentions are discussed today around the world. How big the real potential of the Chinese economy is: the country will continue to be "the world's factory," dependent on Western concepts and orders? Or the Chinese people will be able to make a breakthrough to an innovative economy, competitive in the high-tech area, and then the current market of German technical products will be a dangerous opponent for the German industry?

Mostly China's industrial ambitions are expressed in three major branches of the transport sector: automotive, railway and aircraft industries.

Currently, the civil aviation poses in front of the industrial state the most difficult problems, except for the Internet economy, perhaps. Unlike the situation in the automotive and railway industry, where Chinese manufacturers compete with many international brands and corporations, the competitors in the aviation industry have two well-known names - Boeing and Airbus. It would be unrealistic to say that the national economy of China in its present state will accept US-European dominance, especially in the sector that Beijing declared a "key industry" 10 years ago.

Nowadays China almost equally has divided the domestic market between Americans and Europeans. Boeing produces its airliners in the United States, and only a few components are shipped from China; Airbus in 2008 together with a Chinese partner constructed in Tianjin an exact copy of its assembly plant in Hamburg and more than 200 of A320 aircrafts were produced in China. Until the end of 2017 the center for A330 cabin equipment should start its work there as well.

The hangar on the outskirts of the Dachang Air Force base in Shanghai can be considered a grain from which Chinese Boeing or Airbus should grow. In the lobby there is the layout of the new headquarters of Comac, the site for which is near the fifth runway strip of the Pudong International Airport. "The blue color - engineer Li Jieke says - marks already built workshops where we will assemble our regional ARJ21 jet airliner. The white color marks production lines being designed for medium-haul aircrafts, the red stands for long haul ones".

“Perhaps the aircraft engineering will soon show the boundaries of the Chinese model, rather than demonstrate its limitless potential, - writes the American expert Fallows. – China being able to create its own Boeing or Airbus is not that China we know today". The recipe due to which the country became an economic power is mass production, fast payback, low costs and readiness to put up with a lot of faulty products are just the opposite of what is required in the aircraft industry.

Above the "Flying Phoenix", the first modern civilian aircraft, which the Chinese people are ready to put into operation this autumn, there is a red banner with the slogan, the author of which could have been an engineer from any of these countries, "To rely on the quality = success".