China Airborne

Buoyed by its newfound economic wealth, China prepared an ambitious undertaking to become a major global player in the aerospace and aviation industries. China Airborne documents this effort to conquer a new frontier. Aviation enthusiast James Fallows, a national correspondent for the Atlantic, traveled to China to witness this birth from blueprint to reality.

The Chinese government's 12th "Five-Year Plan" (2011-2015) calls for the establishment of new airports in remote areas at an estimated cost of $230 billion, five to 10 times more than the United States would budget for its own aviation programs. Armed with the attitude that all "things are possible," the Chinese are forging an industry in the image of its cultural and political beliefs, following similar trajectories that have led to prominence in electronics and telecommunications. Seeking to take advantage of this new cash cow, major American and European players, Boeing among them, courted the Chinese government with promises of new factories and training programs established on Chinese soil, not realizing that the Chinese penchant to usurp and assimilate would leave them on the outside looking in.

Fallows writes with a trained eye on the political and economic machinery fueling China's Master Plan, despite deep regional divisions that often threaten to derail these efforts. As China reverts to its heavy-handed political ways, the question won't be when China will reach the aviation maturity that allows necessary innovation to flourish, but if it ever will. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer

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