Despite a disappointing slowdown in global business, the international aviation community is still confident in China's increasingly important role in the world's airline industry.
China's industry has enormous growth potential, said world airline leaders at the industry's first major gathering since the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Leaders are in Shanghai for the 58th Annual General Meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) which began yesterday.
International support for China's airline industry disperses some doubts about Chinese civil aviation, particularly in safety and security, following two devastating air crashes involving two major Chinese airlines in April and May.
"The way the (safety) issue is handled here and the safety record of Chinese aviation make us believe the region is not at all our major concern," said Pierre Jean Jeanniot, current director general of the IATA, whose members account for nearly 98 per cent of the world's scheduled air traffickers.
The director general credits China with remarkable past achievements and great growth potential.
"The event is being held here because we believed the time had come to highlight the very significant progress in civil aviation accomplished here over the recent past," said Jeanniot.
The gathering, also dubbed the "World Air Transport Summit," attracted more than 800 participants, including top executives of airlines, airports, air transport manufacturers, government officials as well as delegates from global aviation organizations such as the IATA and the International Civil Aviation Organization.
The worldwide aviation industry was already affected by a global economic downtown when the September 11 attacks occurred, further worsening the situation.
Aside from a special session on the Chinese aviation industry, participants are expected to exchanges views on issues such as restoring consumer confidence in air security and insurance, and increasing the financial viability of airlines.
"Security and recovery are the major challenges now facing the global airline industry," said Hu Qili, vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference at the opening ceremony of the two-day event.
"Since September 11, our overriding priority has (been) to take whatever measures are required to speed up the industry's return to profitability," echoed Jeanniot in the presentation of his annual "State of the Industry" review.
(China Daily June 4, 2002)