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Airshow China 2021: Janes analysis of a highly anticipated event

As Airshow China 2021 kicks off,  Kelvin Wong, unmanned systems editor at Janes explores the unique flavour of China’s premier national aerospace and defence exhibition series and previews the some of the new systems that will debut at this year’s event

The 13th iteration of the biennial China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, also known as Airshow China, promises to be yet another brief but valuable window of opportunity to observe China’s growing ability to indigenously develop and field advanced equipment. 

This year’s edition runs from 28 September to 3 October, postponed from its original date in November 2020 by Covid-19, and is being staged amid stringent domestic and international travel restrictions, expected to mean there will be fewer foreign visitors and major commercial and military equipment deals announced.

A highly anticipated event

Airshow China is much more than just a commercial and military aviation showcase, with a broad range of combat vehicles, airborne and ground-based electronic warfare systems, radars and missiles on display, as well as a large but still growing selection of air, land and maritime unmanned systems.

Airshow China is a key soft power event used by Beijing to highlight the country’s significant progress and innovation in defence technologies. Previous events have revealed new and more capable aircraft, such as the FC-31 stealth fighter prototype, J-20 multirole stealth combat aircraft, Y-20 strategic airlifter, and KJ-200 airborne early warning and control aircraft.

With Beijing aspiring to expand its stance on the world stage and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) rapidly modernising to support President Xi Jinping’s vision of an assertive and revitalised China, this year’s event will be used as a platform to demonstrate that the country is rapidly scaling the technology ladder in its quest to cement itself as a leading regional and global power.

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