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Saturday 19 Aug 2017 | 10:02 | SYDNEY
Saturday 19 Aug 2017 | 10:02 | SYDNEY

Aviation, a window on world politics

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3 July 2012 17:27

Those who followed our recent interview series with James Fallows will know that the premise of his latest book is that China's aviation sector provides a useful lens through which to view the rise of China as a whole. In that spirit, I want to alert you to two items I just found on the excellent Flight Global website which suggest some broader themes in the world economy and geopolitics.

First, marvel at this headline to a story about Airbus' announcement that it plans to manufacture A320 jetliners in Mobile, Alabama: Low-cost manufacturing lures Airbus to Boeing's back yard.

Well waddaya know. America, apparently, is a low-cost manufacturing destination. Another data-point in the case for an American manufacturing renaissance?

There's an oddly funny counterpoint late in the story, when an Airbus spokesman, in trying to tease the European aerospace giant's American rival Boeing, reveals what he thinks of Europe as a manufacturing destination: '...they would be very welcome to invest in an assembly line in Europe. Please, Boeing, do it.'

The second story concerns China's quest to become a big arms exporter. The big picture is that China continues to struggle with the quality of its export offerings, but I found the small cultural details telling. Here's an account of how Chinese company CATIC and its Pakistani partner are jointly marketing the JF-17 fighter:

Joint marketing efforts at air shows are increasingly reminiscent of those mounted by major Western players such as Boeing, Eurofighter and Lockheed Martin. In addition to detailed briefings, in English, about the aircraft and its capabilities, CATIC and Pakistani officials are happy to give journalists one-to-one interviews. They will also discuss the aircraft over the phone and reply to email queries.

While the JF-17's promoters' public relations and marketing efforts may still lack the slick presentation of the big Western players, they are far more adept at marketing than their rivals in third-world markets, the Russians. Rosoboronexport's air show briefings, conducted in Russian by stern officials, are often short on detail and light on news, while efforts to speak with industry executives can be rebuffed with a swift "nyet".

Photo by Flickr user phillip kalantzis-cope.

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