China is set to spend on airport development in the next five years more than
it did in the last 15 opening up huge investment opportunities for overseas and
According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), the industry
regulator, 140 billion yuan (US$17.4 billion) has been earmarked from this year
to 2010, compared to the 120 billion yuan (US$14.8 billion) from 1990 to last
Chinese residents look
at an Air China Boeing aircraft taxiing on the tarmac of Beijing's
international airport April 20, 2006.
The spending will be focused on 42 new airports and upgrading existing
Zhao Hongyuan, a senior CAAC official, told China Daily that the number of
airports would rise to about 190 from the current 142, with the figure reaching
220 by 2020.
The fleet strength of commercial aircraft will grow to 1,580 by 2010, up from
the current 863, before reaching about 4,000 in 2020.
The first step is to strengthen Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou airports as
key international hubs. The CAAC also wants Chengdu, Kunming, Xi'an, Wuhan and
Shenyang to become regional hubs.
It is not just the developed coastal and eastern areas which will hog the
funds other regions, too, get a big chunk of the spending pie.
For example, Southwest China's Yunnan Province plans to invest more than 20
billion yuan (US$2.5 billion) in airport projects in the next five years,
accounting for nearly one-seventh of the country's total, Xinhua News Agency
By 2010, the province will have 15 airports, up from 10 now, forming a
comprehensive network linking all parts of Yunnan with the outside world,
specially southeastern and southern Asia.
"All the projects, national or local, will offer investment opportunities for
investors at home and abroad," said Zhao.
China opened the aviation infrastructure sector to foreign and domestic
investment in 2002; and there have been many takers.
For instance, German airport operator Fraport recently bought a 25 per cent
stake in East China's Ningbo airport and is in talks for an even bigger stake in
Xi'an's Xianyang airport in Northwest China.
Experts said that airport development is vital to keep pace with soaring air
traffic. Last year, domestic airlines carried 138 million passengers, up 15.5
per cent from the previous year, and 3.4 million tons of cargo, up 13.8 per
The CAAC said it expects passenger and cargo traffic to grow at an average of
14 per cent annually until 2010, with growth slowing to 11 per cent annually
from 2011 to 2020.
"The current number of airports does not match the present and long-term
needs of China," said Gao Jinhua, professor at Tianjin School of Civil Aviation
According to CAAC figures, there are only 142 certified airports to serve a
population of just over 1.3 billion. In comparison, the United States, with 270
million people, has 14,807 airports; and Australia, with just over 20 million,
"The challenge is not only to increase the number of airports but to improve
existing infrastructure as well," said Gao.
The World Tourism Organization estimated recently that China would be the
fourth-largest international source of leisure travellers by 2020, predicting
about 100 million international Chinese tourists that year; and the country to
become the world's top inbound tourist destination the same year.
But of the current 142 airports, only 25 are equipped to handle large
aircraft such as the Boeing 747.
(China Daily 05/09/2006 page1)