Xinhua Headlines: How a Chinese-made jetliner bolsters China-Indonesia relations

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by Yu Shuaishuai, Ye Pingfan, Jia Yuankun

JAKARTA/SHANGHAI, May 2 (Xinhua) -- Since Chinese-produced ARJ21 made its overseas commercial flight debut with Indonesian airline TransNusa one year ago, the regional jetliner has demonstrated improved performance in the Southeast Asian market.

Over the past year, TransNusa has acquired two ARJ21s from Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, Ltd. (COMAC) and operated them on six routes. The planes have accumulated 3,560 safe flight hours and transported nearly 120,000 passengers.

The success of ARJ21 marks a significant achievement under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the burgeoning relationship between China and Indonesia.


In Indonesia, airports often have limited facilities and short and narrow runways, but ARJ21 adapts well to these conditions.

TransNusa Vice President Leo Budiman called it "a remarkable success" and a breakthrough for ARJ21 when it completed a chartered flight from Jakarta to Morowali, where the airport's runway was narrow and short.

Wu Guofang, vice president of COMAC Shanghai Aircraft Customer Service Co., Ltd., told Xinhua that ARJ21 was designed to adapt to high temperatures and high humidity, well suited to climate in Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries.

For Yves Liga Pangeran Hakim, one of the pilots from TransNusa, ARJ21 is perfect for the local market.

"It has good potential and can fly on a narrow runway. This aircraft provides solutions for the Indonesian aviation market. It is a great success," said Hakim, who has flown on ARJ21 for several times.

The ARJ21 was also deployed for international flights, as TransNusa operated the aircraft on the Jakarta-Kuala Lumpur route in 2023.

Budiman said ARJ21 received "a remarkable welcome" in Malaysia as the jetliner has acquired permits to operate in six airports nationwide.

"We will show the world that ARJ21 is really suitable for the local market," said Budiman.


After its success in Indonesia, COMAC has sought to expand its business footprint to more Southeast Asian countries.

At the Singapore Airshow 2024 in February, ARJ21 and C919, another COMAC-made jetliner, garnered attention. During the event, the company received orders for 40 C919 and 16 ARJ21 jets.

After the airshow, the two jetliners launched demonstration flights in five Southeast Asian countries. Eyeing cooperation with local airlines in these countries, COMAC is beginning to establish its overseas market network.

"The aircraft has fully demonstrated its excellent stability and adaptability, receiving very positive responses from the Indonesian civil aviation authority, Indonesian airlines and the Southeast Asian market," said Wu.

Believing that ARJ21 has bigger market potential in the region, Budiman said the regional airliner will improve connectivity between islands, which is very important for Indonesia and the wider region.

"We see COMAC is making improvements day by day," Budiman said, adding that the prospect is "very promising."

According to Wu, COMAC has established a customer service office in Jakarta, offering more efficient and localized personnel training, aircraft parts and maintenance services for regional clients.

Wu said the aircraft can not only serve as a tool of transportation but also act as a bridge to enhance cooperation between the two countries, adding that more opportunities for further cooperation can be explored.


Over the past decade, Indonesia and China have forged productive cooperation in various fields.

The China-Indonesia bilateral relationship has never been stronger. China is Indonesia's largest trading partner and one of its biggest foreign investors.

In April, the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway, the flagship project co-constructed by China and Indonesia under the BRI, marked six months of operation, during which some 2.56 million passengers were transported.

With a design speed of 350 kilometers per hour, the 142.3-kilometer high-speed railway cut the journey between Jakarta and Bandung in West Java province from over three hours to around 40 minutes.

Veronika Saraswati, a China expert and researcher at Indonesia's leading think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said infrastructure projects carried out by Indonesian and Chinese companies under the BRI will transform Indonesia's traditional industries and increase national and local fiscal revenues.

Teguh Dartanto, dean of the School of Economics at the University of Indonesia, would like to see a stronger relationship between China and Indonesia.

"We need a more next-level relationship where we not only focus on production, business and trade but also on people-to-people collaboration, R&D and perhaps a transfer of technology and knowledge." Enditem

(Xinhua Correspondent Tao Fangwei in Jakarta also contributed to this story.)

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