Can China Ban Airbus, Boeing But Still Engage Western Engine Makers?

comac c919
Credit: Honeywell

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Commercial aircraft are all about engines. Could China ban Airbus and Boeing but still engage Western engine suppliers, decoupling the engine and airframe markets?

Aviation Week Beijing Bureau Chief Bradley Perrett answers:

Yes, Chinese commercial aircraft programs are already moving in that direction by limiting opportunities for foreign commercial airframes while leaving those opportunities open for foreign suppliers of engines and onboard systems. The idea is that when Comac gets a sale, Boeing and Airbus will not, but CFM, Honeywell and other suppliers will because they are onboard the C919. Of course, it is intended that eventually the foreign engine and onboard system suppliers will also have a more limited Chinese market. China needs more time, however, to produce domestic substitutes for these products.

This rosy prospect for Comac and its suppliers disappears if foreign governments order a halt to supply. At the time of program launch for the ARJ21 in 2002 and the C919 in 2008, such a political risk would have seemed fanciful. But China’s international behavior since 2013—at first called assertiveness, now increasingly called aggression—must have moved the risk from the “fanciful” column to the “possible” column. A wild card in this outlook is whether European countries become as angry with China as the U.S. is. European countries are still years behind the U.S. in hardening their attitudes to China.

Bradley Perrett

Bradley Perrett covered China, Japan, South Korea and Australia. He is a Mandarin-speaking Australian.