Will China be the Economic Winner in the Crimea Crisis?

According to Beijing sources the Chinese aviation industry will see major advantages should the Ukraine be destabilized. Their products could fill a vacuum resulting from the faltering economy in the beleaguered eastern European country.

The serial production of the Ukraine-built An-158 has begun  /  source: Antonov
The serial production of the Ukraine-built An-158 has begun / source: Antonov

Beijing is quietly and almost unnoticed by the world supporting Moscow’s attempts to annex the Crimea Peninsula despite its official status as part of the Ukraine and in spite of severe counter measures threatened by the U.S., EU and even NATO. The driving political force behind all this is Beijing’s expectation to secure its economy a number of advantages resulting from a situation in which the Ukraine remains paralyzed in the near future by Russian pressure.  According to official Chinese media their enterprises could step in right away if the West should embargo investments in Russia. “In case this happens, we could quickly fill this vacuum,” a scholar said when asked by TV channel CCTV News about possible Chinese reactions. He went on to say that Beijing will predominantly benefit should the aerospace industry in the Ukraine - including smaller suppliers - be eliminated or at least weakened for the foreseeable future.


The aviation sector has long been of pre-eminent significance for the eastern European nation with aircraft designer and producer Antonov being its flagship. The Kiev-based firm’s products are legendary, with the big An-124-100 freighter having become its worldwide best known model. But noteworthy are also the newly developed passenger versions An-148 and its variant An-158. While the serial production of the An-158 has begun, operators from Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and the Ukraine have expressed their intention to purchase about one hundred of this regional airliner.

Demand for Comac-assembled ARJ21 could increase should Ukraine’s aviation industry suffer setbacks  /  source: Comac
Demand for Comac-assembled ARJ21 could increase should Ukraine’s aviation industry suffer setbacks / source: Comac

The An-158 is capable of carrying up to 99 passengers over a range up to 2500 kilometers, or 89 passengers over a range up to 3100 km. Therefore, the Kiev-manufactured twin-jet craft develops into a direct competitor to the upcoming Chinese regional airliner Comac ARJ21(between 70 to 100 pax) whose first delivery to launching customer Chengdu Airlines is slated to take place in April or May 2015, due to the many delays the 2003 launched program had suffered.


Indications that Comac would presumably benefit from the Ukrainian mishaps were now echoed by some of the Chinese media. In addition they emphasized that China stands by to fill the expected gap in energy supplies by redirecting the flows should Russia cut-off gas supplies to the west as retaliation to economic sanctions imposed by Brussels and Washington in their reaction to Moscow’s Crimea occupation.


Thus, the deadlocked Ukraine situation could help China to better sell their Comac aircraft to customer airlines and it might be the starting shot between Moscow and Beijing for signing a new deal in energy supplies. 

Heiner Siegmund