China to invest $80B on aviation

Facing economic reports that point to the slowest quarterly growth in the last six years, China’s aviation regulatory agency said the country will spend RMB500 billion (US$80 billion) on nearly 200 domestic aviation projects this year alone.

Reuters reported that the investment figure was mentioned in the transcript of remarks that will be given on Wednesday by Li Jiaxiang, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), at a Beijing aviation forum.

All told, the funds will go toward 193 aviation infrastructure improvement projects across the country, Li said. Although he did not provide details on any specific projects, Li said that reason for the funding was to meet growing travel demand and provide a boost to the sagging Chinese economy.

Despite the economic slump, China’s aviation sector has grown rapidly in recent years, thanks to a rapidly expanding middle class that has aggressively embraced e-commerce and is traveling the world more than ever before. Outbound passenger volumes, CAAC said, rose 39 percent during the January-May period, compared to the same five months of the previous year.

Currently, Chinese airlines now fly 553 routes to 127 cities in 51 nations, Li said. Over the coming summer and autumn months, CAAC estimated that another 83 routes will be added. Between now and 2020, the number of airports in China will grow from about 200 today to 240.

Of these funds, about $32 billion, Li said, will be funneled to 51 projects in cities such as Urumqi and Kunming, which are along routes marked out in China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013. The initiative was created to increase trade and connectivity between China and various regions in South Asia, Europe and Africa by way of rail, sea and air connections, as well as oil and gas pipelines.

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