Scene at Airshow China (Photo by Zhuhai Airshow Co., Ltd.)
BEIJING, Nov. 27 (Xinhua) -- On November 19, 2010, on the first public open day of the Eighth China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition (Airshow China), the Zhuhai Airshow Center where the most cutting-edge new weapons were on display was not the only attraction of the exhibition. The site of the collective appearance of Chinese air force pilots was very special too. In the dynamic flight exhibition area of the airshow center, rows of fully armed fighter jets were parked in perfect alignment. A group of pilots dressed in blue Chinese air force uniforms appeared collectively, who were the pilots of well-recognized fighter jets including J-10, XAC HU-6 and Z-9. The confidence and the sense of responsibility showed on the faces of the pilots in front of the cameras of world media left a strong impression on Li Yihui.
“Many audience members in the back raised their thumbs up and said, ‘China, great! China, we are so proud of you.’ A feeling of national pride arose spontaneously at that moment.”
As the deputy general manager of Zhuhai Conference and Exhibition Group, Li Yihui has worked there for 17 years since she graduated from the university and joined the Conference and Exhibition Group. She has witnessed Airshow China’s growth from a small airshow to a highly professional international extravaganza offering trade opportunities and entertainment to visitors, representing China’s advanced aviation and aerospace technological mainstream today and showcasing aviation and aerospace technological development levels of the world. Airshow China is now among the top five airshows in the world, like a shining business card for the nation.
To take a retrospective look at the growth of Airshow China, we have to start with a piece of friendly advice by a Canadian. 25 years ago, senator Rakai of the Canadian city Surrey, a member of the international airshow told Liang Guangda, Mayor of Zhuhai then, “Zhuhai, as an emerging coastal city, should consider incorporation of aviation and aerospace exhibition function while building the airport.” This advice left its mark deep in Liang Guangda’s mind.
However, Zhuhai was not really a city of great significance for aviation and aerospace industry. Without any previous experience to learn from, the difficulties in building such a large scale expo still fill him with emotions even today. Luckily, with help from many different parties, in 1996, the first Airshow China opened at the Aviation Exhibition Center, located next to a little fishing village in San Zao county of Zhuhai. Despite a tight budget, the city invested hugely in this domestically top-class fixed exhibition center. Merely the construction of the supporting roads for visitors—the airport ring roads, cost more than RMB600 million, with all relevant cost approximating to RMB1.1 billion.
“We had never seen so many visitors before.” Lv Ying, who just joined the China Travel Agency at Gongbei Port of Guangdong province at that time, still remembers the scene like it was yesterday. She said that back then on a normal day not many cars could be seen on the way to the airport and on Zhuhai Avenue. However, during the airshow, visitor vehicles stretched more than 30 kilometers. Due to a lack of reception experience, all kinds of peddlers were crowding both inside and outside the exhibition center.
In the blink of an eye, Chinese aviation and aerospace industry has experienced earthshaking changes.
This can be demonstrated with a group of numbers: roughly 400 aviation and aerospace companies from 25 countries and regions at the first airshow in comparison to roughly 700 companies from 42 countries and regions in 2016, among which overseas exhibitors grew by 45%. Total order volume has grown from 16 cooperation contracts valued at nearly USD2 billion at the first airshow to contracts and letters of intent of 402 projects, valued more than USD40 billion at the 11th airshow, a 41.5% increase from the RMB23.4 billion at the previous airshow, a new historical record. In total, deals of 187 aircrafts were sealed at the 11th airshow.
Twenty years later, Airshow China has become a spectacular festival with its impact reaching aviation and aerospace industries around the world. It is also a grand global media party, and a window in Zhuhai showcasing internationalized services. As one of the five top aviation shows in the world, the number of aircrafts exhibited, the number of countries or regions from which exhibitors are from, and the number of exhibitors keep growing year by year with higher levels of internationalization and professionalism.
Delegates from Hatch Group of U.S. who attended the ninth airshow while being interviewed, stated that they were drawn to Airshow China because many international conglomerates such as Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier were attending the expo. They were hoping to search for more cooperation opportunities at the airshow.
The national exhibition teams of U.S., Russia and France are upscaling their exhibition efforts every year. The national exhibition teams of Britain and Canada are also getting on board of Airshow China.
“Airshow China equals ‘energy + technology + global perspective’,” commented Marc Allen, President of Boeing Capital Corporation and former President of Boeing China.
Among the exhibitors of all these years, besides some “old friends” represented by Boeing and Airbus, there are also “new faces” such as Korea Aerospace Industries Association and Hong Kong Aerospace Industries Association who attended the tenth airshow with a strong impact. Furthermore, Textron, Bell, Sikorsky, Gulfstream, Bombardier and Embraer S.A. are some of the world renowned business jet exhibitors and industry leaders who started to exhibit their “star products” in 2014.
Airshow China with its every enlarging “circle of friends”, has been the focus of attention by media from all countries. According to statistics, the grandly staged eleventh Airshow China in 2016 received 419 Chinese and foreign media outlets and 2,780 reporters.
To report the 9th airshow, public German radio reporter Markus Rimmele came first time to Zhuhai in 2012. To him, “the airshow is like a window , which not only showcases Chinese aviation and aerospace industry’s latest development to international visitors, but also helps Chinese enterprises get to know more about advanced international aerospace manufacture technologies.”
Another reporter from De Welt, after attending the eleventh Airshow China, pointed out that the hosting of the airshow coincides with a robust developmental period of China’s aviation and aerospace industry. It is estimated that China will surpass the U.S. to become the largest aerospace market in the world in ten years.
The biennial airshow has quietly changed Zhuhai in every aspect, from its public infrastructure to exhibition services, and finally to urban development. Lv Ying and her team became the exclusive agent of tickets and travel agencies for Airshow China. During the eleventh Airshow China, they received 150 thousand exhibitors and visitors in total, among whom around 60 thousand were overseas exhibitors and visitors.
According to a 2016 research by Sun Yat-sen University China Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition project group, the direct economic benefit of the Eleventh China Aviation and Aerospace Expo reached RMB1.922 billion and the indirect economic benefit reached RMB3.171 billion, totaling RMB5.093 billion.
The two decades of China’s aviation and aerospace expo witnessed the worldwide recognition of Zhuhai. In 20 years, Zhuhai Festivals and Exhibitions have grown from hosting one event only, namely the airshow in the very beginning, to staging a multitude of events including WTA Elite Trophy, Zhuhai International Mozart Competition for Young Musicians, China International Circus Festival, China-Israel Investment Summit, China International Boat Show, China-Latin America Expo and a series of brand events, offering endless options for visitors.
From opening a window to opening a door, Zhuhai is embracing the whole world, with a confidence accumulated in all these years. (Reporter: Mao Lili)