How much can China’s traffic growth slow? A look at Japan

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By Vincent Valery


Dec. 12, 2022, © Leeham News: The Chinese commercial aviation market is now the second largest in the world after the United States. Growth has been very robust in recent decades, and all major OEMs forecast things to stay this way in the next two decades.

Credit: Japan Rail Pass

However, the Chinese economy's GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth rate slowed down significantly throughout the 2010 decade: from around 10% to 6% in 2019. Separately, China's working-age population peaked during the same decade.

The growth in passenger traffic has historically had a strong correlation with GDP growth. Several studies have shown that passenger traffic has grown 1.5x to 2x faster than GDP. The consequences of a potential passenger traffic growth slowdown in China are, therefore, significant for commercial aircraft OEMs.

Another country in the Asia Pacific region faced a similar situation in the early 1990s: Japan. Even though there are substantial differences between the two countries, analyzing how things played out in Japan could help understand what lies ahead for Chinese passenger traffic growth.

  • Demographic and economic parallels;
  • Competition from high-speed rail;
  • As Japan's GDP grew, so did air and train travel;
  • Explaining the 2010s Japan air traffic boom;
  • Significant differences between China and Japan.

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