China plans to build an air network to better link countries taking part in the Belt and Road Initiative, the country’s civil aviation authority said on Tuesday.
Compared with other means of transportation, “construction of civil aviation needs less time and is less affected by geography”, said Wang Changyi, director of development planning for the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
“It is also more flexible to operate, and can be put into service before other transport modes,” he said.
According to Wang, as of December China had signed bilateral air transportation agreements with 120 countries and regions – including 62 involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.
Direct flights link China with 43 countries along the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, with about 4,200 flights weekly. Chinese airlines have set up liaison offices in 24 Belt and Road countries.
Airlines have opened more than 100 new international routes to link China with Belt and Road economies since the start of the peak tourist season, which runs from March 26 to Oct 28. Chinese airlines plan to open 70 routes to facilitate travel, while international airlines will open 35 routes, 34 of which will link China with regions involved in the initiative.
“More people are travelling between China and Belt and Road countries,” Wang said, adding that 47 percent of international passengers travelled between China and those regions in the first four months of this year. In 2015, the number was about 40 percent.
More small and medium-sized airports in provinces involved in the initiative are also planned, he said.
China hosted the two-day Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation on Sunday and Monday. Infrastructure connectivity is the foundation of international cooperation and development, President Xi Jinping said in an address at the forum on Monday, emphasising the importance of promoting infrastructure connectivity.
“We should promote land, sea and air connectivity and the information expressway, concentrate our efforts on key passageways, cities and projects, and build a network of highways, railways and seaports,” he said.
During the forum, the government signed a letter of intent with the International Civil Aviation Organisation under which the two will deepen cooperation in many ways, including safety and infrastructure construction to promote civil aviation development in Belt and Road countries.
The initiative is in line with the organisation’s goals and the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Plan, according to Liu Fang, secretary-general of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
The Belt and Road Initiative may reshape the map of the global economy and become the largest platform of regional cooperation, creating a positive environment for trade and boosting the economy, Liu said.