Air Transportation: January 20, 2005

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Chinas civil aviation fleet consists of some 800 aircraft, which, in total, are capable of carrying 24,000 tons of cargo, and 133,000 people. China has two dozen airlines, and one (China United Airlines, with 54 aircraft) is actually owned by the Chinese air force. By law, China can order all these aircraft into military service. As a practical matter, only China United Airline regularly sends it airliners off to train with the troops once or twice a year. Actually, within the air force, China United Airlines is known as the 34th Air Division. Most of the airline employees are active duty or reserve air force personnel The Chinese military was supposed to sell off their huge business empire in the late 1990s, but only about half the assets were so disposed of. The generals made a case for keeping many of these firms, like China United Airlines, and the large weapons manufacturing firm, NORINCO. China United flies mostly military type transports (except for eight Boeing 737s), and these planes spend most of their time moving civilian cargo.  The Chinese military has long (as in before the communists came along) had non-military businesses as well. These enterprises tended to reduce military efficiency, because they distracted officers from their military duties, and encouraged corruption. For that reason, the government has been trying to get the military to stick to the business of war, not profit. 

 


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