The Brazilian Job, or, The Law of the Jungle Jets

In the Hutong
Looking for the 11th Five Year Plan
1723 hrs.

Brazil’s Embraer is using an interesting tactic to get the Chinese to buy their jets.

CAAC had apparently been sitting on an order for some Embraer regional jets. Embraer, who had built a factory in Harbin with the expectation that China would be a gigantic market for regional jets, is apparently finding things a bit rough going for its China operations, as the Harbin plant is apparently all but idle.

So the guys at Embraer make it known that they’re going to shut the doors in Harbin due to a lack of orders.

This clearly struck someone in the civil aviation bureaucracy as a bad idea. It would have been a step backwards in China’s efforts to attract foreign airframe manufacturers (and build its own airframe manufacturing industry), and it would destroy the rationale for local player AVIC to develop its own regional jet.

So, next thing you know, Embraer scores an order for 100 of its puddle-jumpers from HNA Group, the parent company of Hainan Airlines, Xinhua Airlines, Chang An Airlines, Shanxi Airlines, Yangtze River Express, and bizjet operator Deer Jet.

Without arguing the merits of the deal for HNA (frankly, I think they’d be better off putting their money into larger planes), you have to give Embraer a ton of credit for playing the game by Chinese rules in China – and winning.


About David Wolf

An adviser to corporations and organizations on strategy, communications, and public affairs, David Wolf has been working and living in Beijing since 1995, and now divides his time between China and California. He also serves as a policy and industry analyst focused on innovative and creative industries, a futurist, and an amateur historian.
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