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China – Civil Aviation

China is the world’s second largest and one of the world’s fastest growing civil aviation markets. The industry has grown at double-digit rates for several years.  Commercial opportunities in China’s civil aviation market include commercial aircraft, engines and parts, MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul), airport, and general aviation, among others.

China’s aviation industry is a national priority, and the Chinese government is expending significant resources to develop domestic manufacturing capabilities, build new airports, train new pilots, and increase domestic maintenance capacity.  China is one of the largest aviation products exporter, accounting for 58 percent of China’s total imports in the aviation sector.

In 2016, China's civil aviation transportation turnover reached a total of 96 billion tons km, passenger transport volume reached 490 million persons, and cargo transport volume reached 6.67 million tons; this was an increase of 12.8%, 11.8%, and 6%, respectively, from 2015. China’s top three airlines—Air China, China Southern, and China Eastern—are already among the world’s top 10 carriers in terms of passenger volume.

By the end of 2016, the number of civil aircraft in China increased from 4,554 to 5,037, and civil airports increased to 218.  The number of airports able to accommodate passenger traffic in excess of 10 million persons reached 28.  Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou occupy 26.2% of total passenger throughput in mainland China, of which Beijing reached 90 million and Shanghai’s two airports reached 100 million in 2016.  According to China’s 13th Five Year Plan (2016 – 2020), China will have more than 260 civil airports by 2020.

By the end of 2016, the number of general aviation aircraft reached 1,472 and China had more than 300 general aviation airports.  China currently has a total of 224 general aviation companies, with the total number of general aviation pilots at 2,524.  There are currently 20 pilot training schools in China.  By 2020, China plans to have 500 general aviation airports and more than 5,000 general aviation aircraft.

The expansion of China’s aviation market creates both opportunities and challenges for global companies. Commercial opportunities in the civil aviation market include final assembly and tier-one suppliers, small niche parts manufacturers, airport design and construction companies, MRO, and general aviation among others. However, since aerospace manufacturing is a national priority in China, U.S. companies may face substantial localization pressures or may be disadvantaged by government policies favoring local firms.

China is working to develop a globally competitive manufacturing industry.  The industry sees strong growth in China's aviation sector over the long term.

China’s import market for aircraft parts and components exceeded $2.19 billion in 2016. China’s demand for aircraft parts can be attributed to a number of factors including increasing capacity utilization rate, the aging and expansion of China’s aircraft fleet, and the domestic production and assembly of aircraft.

Boeing predicts China will need 5,110 new single-aisle airplanes through 2035. This sector is driven by growth in new carriers and low-cost airlines in developing and emerging markets, as well as continuous expansion in established airlines.

New Airplane Deliveries to China Through 2035


Airplane type


Total deliveries

Dollar value

Regional jets

90 and below







Small wide-body




Medium wide-body




Large wide-body

400 and above





(17% of world total)

(17% of world total)

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