Storm clouds gather over China’s ‘flying dinosaur’ 

Global cooperation ushered in the C919 passenger jet but those days are over amid trade tensions

China’s C919 passenger jet soared into the sky above Singapore on its international debut at the weekend, a flying dinosaur of a bygone era of global cooperation.

Built by the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China or Comac, its decades-long journey illustrates the twists and turns of a changing geopolitical landscape.

Multinational corporations, such as America’s General Electric Aerospace and France’s Safran Aircraft, developed the engines that power the C919. 

“Some people have been questioning whether [it] can be called a domestically-manufactured aircraft when it relies on imports for about 40% of its components,” China’s state-run Global Times reported in a rare frank admission.

“There is a long list of foreign suppliers [such as] Honeywell’s electrical system and landing gear, GE’s flight recorder, Parker Aerospace’s flight control and fuel systems, and Michelin’s tires,” the newspaper said. 

Stormy skies:

There is no country that presents a more comprehensive threat.

FBI Director Christopher Wray

Between the lines: “Leading to further scrutiny are allegations that a Chinese state-aligned adversary conducted cyber intrusions against several companies that make the C919’s components,” My TechDecisions, an online technology site, reported.

Delve deeper: As China’s economic crisis continues, so does the menace of “intellectual property” theft with state-sponsored groups targeting the West.

Big picture: “There is no country that presents a broader, more comprehensive threat to our ideas, our innovation, our economic security, and ultimately our national security,” FBI Director Christopher Wray told 60 Minutes on CBS in October.

Secret army: “We have seen efforts by the Chinese government, directly or indirectly, trying to steal intellectual property, trade secrets, personal data – all across the country,” he said.

China Factor comment: It is impossible to see another C919 project on the horizon in the future. Those days of collaboration have been left in a vapor trail at the Singapore Airshow.