Wednesday, February 08, 2006

China and the Aircraft Industry II: Be Prepared to be Buried Sooner Than You Thought.

A while ago I mused that the question whether China would develop a commercial aircraft industry that could rival anything in the self absorbed west was strictly a matter of when and not if.

I based this analysis on the progress made on the Three Gorges Project and suggested that any country that could pull off a project on that scale could do damn near anything they set their minds to, and they'd already built airliners in collaboration with McDonnell Douglas. The Chinese I've met personally in the workplace are without exception a group of no nonsense, can-do people with a well developed habit of hard work and industry that should be the envy of the rest of the world. In fact, they remind me of nothing so much as Americans before they began to doubt themselves and their abilities.

Some of my colleagues said "Bollocks! China? A maker of plastic gewgaws and cheap hand tools? Get your head out of your hindparts, you pretentious yanqui! We here in Europe can handle the Chinese blindfolded. Why, if Airbus sets up an assembly line, the Chinese won't be able to figure out jack shit about it. The very thought! Hmmmmmmmph. Poseur."

Well. The future, as they say, is now. According to the People's Daily, China will complete the dam nine months ahead of schedule and the entire project will be complete in a couple more years. The biggest hydroelectric dam in the world and the single biggest power plant in the world will produce 85 gigawatts of electric power by 2009.

Three Gorges is the single largest civil engineering project the world has ever seen. Ever. And it was designed and built right there-in China. By Chinese engineers, workers, welders, truck drivers, gandy dancers, and high iron working stiffs. Nobody had to teach them how to do it either.

What's most remarkable is the technology transfer learning curve, particularly with the turbo generator units that were purchased from France. China now has the capacity to equip itself from domestic production with any number of 700,000 kw turbogenerators it cares to fabricate.

And as for those airplanes? All I've got to say to Airbus and Boeing is, watch your backs.


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