China is only good at copying, according to critics. The C919 aircraft manufactured by China’s COMAC is seen as inferior to the long-established Boeing and Airbus planes from the United States and Europe, which boast cutting-edge technology. China’s C919 still relies on Western technology, including engines and avionics systems.
These comments emerged from both the Vietnamese online community and Western media after the C919 successfully completed its inaugural commercial flight. The question raised is how far China will progress in the commercial aviation sector and whether it can catch up with and surpass Boeing and Airbus, as it has done in numerous other technological fields.
We visited an IBM computer manufacturing plant in Shenzhen 25 years ago. At that time, Legend (China) was in a joint venture with IBM (USA), solely involved in assembling and producing PC computers for IBM. Sixteen years later, Legend (now renamed Lenovo) acquired IBM’s global PC division, and today, Lenovo is one of the world’s three largest PC manufacturers, on par with Dell and HP in both technology and company scale.
Now, let’s talk about the high-speed rail story: In 2000, Shanghai purchased a complete TransRapid high-speed rail system from Germany. Then, China gradually mastered high-speed rail technology, started manufacturing its own locomotives and carriages, and has now become the world’s number one power with a high-speed rail network spanning 42,000 kilometers, accounting for over two-thirds of the total global high-speed rail length. Not only that, China also holds the record for the fastest commercial high-speed train (350 km/h and 430 km/h, compared to Germany and Japan’s highest speed of 330 km/h). Furthermore, China leads the world in constructing high-speed rail for other countries, including Indonesia, Serbia, Hungary, and Laos.
Let’s add another story about the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM): Twelve years ago, China imported a TBM from Germany for $101 million per unit. Currently, China has become the world’s leading TBM manufacturer, producing machines of similar quality to Germany’s but at a significantly lower price of only $8 million. China utilized these domestic TBMs to dig the 1,400 km-long Yinjiangbuhan tunnel system, which transports water from the Three Gorges Dam to Beijing. These domestically-produced TBMs have made China the country with the lowest skills and costs in the world for metro tunnels, mountain tunnels, riverbed tunnels, and underwater tunnels in metro, rail, and road projects.
The Chinese can also recount similar stories in quantum computing, 5G telecommunications, artificial intelligence (AI), e-commerce, electric vehicles, telescopes, hypersonic missiles, and many other fields.
Therefore, it would come as no surprise if, in ten or fifteen years, China’s COMAC aircraft, including the C919, C920, C930, and C935 series, compete on par with Boeing and Airbus in both technology and global market share for commercial aviation.
@ Do Cao Bao