China steps up efforts to promote "Air Silk Road"
12 May 2022


China has been promoting development of "Air Silk Road" in recent years, thereby enhancing interconnection, economic and trade cooperation, cultural exchange with other countries and regions and advancing the high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).


The country has yielded fruitful results in developing "Air Silk Road" during the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020).


Recently, Chinese authorities have issued an implementation plan for promoting high-quality development of "Air Silk Road" in the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025), proposing to build a safe, reliable, convenient, efficient, green, intensive, mutually beneficial and inclusive "Air Silk Road".


-- Policy support


As early as 2016, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) issued an action plan for promoting development of BRI by the civil aviation industry from 2016 to 2030, putting forward to realize direct flights and interconnection with Belt and Road (B&R) countries during the 2016-2020 period, and to complete the building of a fully-functional airport network, a global air transport network and an efficient information monitoring network from 2021 to 2030.


The Outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035 adopted in March 2021 explicitly proposed to build an "Air Silk Road".


The development plan for civil aviation industry in the 14th Five-Year Plan Period rolled out at the end of last year also made it clear to boost construction of "Air Silk Road" and enhance international air freight capacity. According to the document, China will run direct flights to more than 70 countries and regions, including 50 participants of the BRI.


Essentially, "Air Silk Road" is a complement to the BRI. By building a bridge of cooperation for the air transport industry, "Air Silk Road" has enriched the BRI that mainly incorporates land and maritime transport, according to Ma Jian, general-secretary of China Center for Urban Airport Economy Research.


-- Major achievements

China has yielded fruitful results in pushing forward "Air Silk Road" construction during the 2016-2020 period.


Remarkable achievements were made in the interconnection of infrastructure. Construction of world-class airport clusters, international aviation hubs and regional aviation hubs was accelerated from 2016 to 2020. 


During the period, China actively participated in the airport construction of some B&R countries, contributing to the development of their aviation infrastructure, according to the CAAC.


Steady progress was made in international cooperation on air transport. China signed bilateral air transport agreements with 98 B&R countries, with Chinese carriers opening flights to 42 B&R countries. The number of flights to and from these countries accounted for more than 60 percent of China's total international flights. Meanwhile, China deepened dialogues and cooperation with civil aviation authorities of B&R countries by holding international conferences such as the Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on Civil Aviation and the EASA-CAAC Aviation Safety Conference.


People-to-people and cultural exchange were deepened. "Air Silk Road" provided a lifeline for the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic by guaranteeing the smooth transportation of anti-pandemic supplies. Also, a B&R cooperation platform coordinating international cooperation resources was built to enhance personnel exchange and business training of civil aviation authorities and researchers, with the aim to provide support for countries and regions in Asia and Africa to strengthen their air transport capacity.


-- High-quality development


On May 6, the CAAC and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) jointly rolled out an implementation policy with a string of measures to advance high-quality development of "Air Silk Road" in the 14th Five-Year Plan period.


The document stipulates guiding philosophy, basic principles, major targets and main tasks on building "Air Silk Road".


The document pledges to build a safe, reliable, convenient, efficient, green, intensive, mutually beneficial and inclusive "Air Silk Road", thus contributing to building China into a strong civil aviation country in a new era and providing support for the high-quality development of the BRI.


As the document tells, during the 14th Five-Year Plan period, distribution of aviation hubs will be improved and the connectivity of flight lines will be strengthened.


New developments are expected in the fields of cooperation mechanism building and improvement, as well as exchange of people and culture. 


The document calls on to reinforce the brand-building of "Air Silk Road", in a way to further expanding cycle of friends.


On the above-mentioned basis, eight concrete indicators are designated to assess the outcomes in the aspects of policy, connectivity, trade and people-to-people exchange.


Also, eight major tasks are outlined in the document, including deepening opening up and development of domestic civil aviation hubs, enhancing connectivity among flight lines networks, advancing infrastructure construction cooperation in civil aviation industry, strengthening science and technology innovation and cooperation, enabling better alignment of rules and standards, and promoting exchange of people and culture, international trade cooperation and cooperation on platform construction.


To realize these major tasks, eleven major projects are planned, such as intensifying bilateral policy coordination and alignment of standards.

Source: Belt and Road Portal