Expect China to greatly increase
helicopter production, all because of some good publicity. The recent
earthquakes in China, which killed nearly 100,000 people, and left over two
million homeless, was given big media play inside China. That in itself was
unusual, until you consider that the news was getting out via the Internet
(over 100 million users in China) and cell phones (over 500 million). The
Chinese media ran with the story, and avoided the wrath of the government media
censors by playing up the heroics. The Chinese helicopters were heroic,
especially the civilian ones. About a quarter of all Chinese civilian
helicopters were involved with the earthquakes rescue effort. But that was only
38 (out of about 160) helicopters. Civilian helicopters are still a relatively
recent phenomena and China is playing catch up. Developing countries in the
West, like Brazil (with one-sixth as many people as China) have nearly 600
civilian choppers. The U.S. has over 10,000, and Canada, with one-tenth the
population of the U.S. (but about the same per-capita GDP) has 1,600. The
demand is there, but the government controls local production and imports.
word is out, in the media and throughout the government, to let more civilian
firms buy helicopters. China has only one helicopter manufacturer (AVIC II)
which makes about 40 a year, for civilian and military customers. Only 10-15 of
the hundred civilian and military helicopters used in the earthquake operation,
were made by AVIC II. Government
officials believe that China should have 5-10 times as many civilian helicopters.
It will take several years, even with lots of imports, to reach those numbers.
The Chinese media made a big deal out of the Chinese made helicopters used for
earthquake operations, and it looks like AVIC II won't have a hard time getting
money for new factories and staff. The
government loves to play the nationalism card. And like most other modern
tyrants (especially Hitler and Stalin) the Communist Party bureaucrats that run
the country, pay attention to opinion polls (few of which are published) and
popular enthusiasms they can exploit to their benefit.