The collaborative efforts between American and Chinese officials to enhance passenger flight services between the two largest global economies mark a significant stride in diplomatic relations.
This development, emerging from recent discussions between Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping in California, signals a thaw in the previously strained ties.
Song Zhiyong and Nicholas Burns engage in ‘in-depth’ discussions
At the forefront of these discussions was the Civil Aviation Administration of China’s chief, Song Zhiyong, who engaged in talks with US Ambassador Nicholas Burns in Beijing.
The Chinese regulator highlighted these talks in a statement, noting the “in-depth” discussions focused on a substantial increase in flights and broadened cooperation in the civil aviation sectors of both nations.
Burns describes discussions with Song as ‘productive’
Ambassador Burns characterized his interaction with Song as “productive,” sharing his thoughts on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. He emphasized the critical role of aviation in connecting people globally, highlighting the contribution of US firms to this connectivity in China and beyond.
Despite these optimistic diplomatic exchanges, the Hong Kong stock market reflected a downturn in the shares of major Chinese airlines. China Southern Airlines Co., China Eastern Airlines Corp, and Air China Ltd. all experienced declines in their stock values, paralleling a drop in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.
Biden and Xi working on mending US-China tensions
The recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit was a pivotal moment for Biden and Xi, leading to several agreements aimed at mending the bilateral relationship. These included initiatives to re-establish high-level military communications, address the fentanyl crisis, and initiate discussions on artificial intelligence.
A key outcome of their meeting on November 15 was the agreement to significantly boost flight services between the two countries starting early next year, as stated by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Following the summit, Air China Ltd. announced plans to resume flights to Washington and increase services to Los Angeles, marking a gradual return to pre-pandemic flight frequencies.
Increase in flights between US and China has been slow and gradual
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, there were an average of 340 weekly flights between the US and China. However, the resurgence of these flights has been gradual, with American officials noting an increase to 70 weekly flights by early November.
Song’s participation in the US-China Aviation Cooperation Program reception at Ambassador Burns’s residence further underscored the commitment to strengthening aviation ties.
The event, attended by over 100 individuals, including aviation regulators and representatives from Boeing Co. and other firms, served as a platform for encouraging American aviation businesses to invest and expand in China.
This series of diplomatic engagements and corporate initiatives reflects a concerted effort to rebuild and enhance the aviation connection between the US and China, paving the way for increased economic and cultural exchanges in the post-pandemic era.