European planemaker Airbus has now resumed operations at its A320neo final assembly line in Tianjin, China, despite the on-going coronavirus crisis.
In a statement issued on February 11th, Airbus said that its Chinese division had been given permission by Beijing to “gradually increase production, whilst implementing all required health and safety measures for Airbus employees, which remains the top priority.”
In response to the Chinese government’s position, Airbus replied by saying it is “constantly evaluating the situation and monitoring any potential knock-on effects to production and deliveries and will try to mitigate via alternative plans where necessary.”
The Airbus facility in Tianjin is one of four assembly lines around the world for the A320 family of jets and was the first Airbus final assembly line outside of Europe when it opened in 2008. The Tianjin facility is also home to an A330 delivery and logistics center.
For Airbus and the Chinese authorities, the manufacturing on the single-aisle twin-engine jet is a big deal, with the Tianjin factory in southern China accounting for 10% of the A320neos global production, with six aircraft being built per month.
When did the Airbus factory shut down?
After having been effectively shut down for the Lunar New Year holiday (January 25th, 2020) and the restriction of people’s movement following the coronavirus outbreak, Airbus followed the Chinese government’s advice and closed the factory. Airbus released a statement at the time, which read:
“China domestic and worldwide travel restrictions are posing some logistical challenges. The Tianjin Final Assembly Line facility is currently closed.”
Why does China want to reopen the Airbus facility in Tianjin?
Having extended the Lunar New Year holiday by a week, it is back to business as normal in Beijing, with nervous leaders looking to minimize the economic impact of the coronavirus.
The truth on the ground, however, is nothing but normal, with many people reluctant to go back to work or to gather in public spaces. The government, for its part, is worried the coronavirus outbreak will hurt the country’s economic growth rate of 6%. State media are, of course, showing thousands of workers returning to their jobs, with the Washington Post quoting the secretary-general of China’s top economic planning agency Cong Liang as saying:
“The important areas of the national economy and people’s livelihoods should be resumed immediately and production should be restarted. Major projects should be returned to work and started as soon as possible.”
All this comes as the death toll from the virus in Hubei province saw its worst day on Thursday, with 242 new deaths, double the number from the previous day.
What about Boeing’s China factories?
Other aerospace companies with assembly lines in China have yet to respond to the Chinese government’s guidelines on partly relaxing the shutdown of operations due to the deadly coronavirus.
Ever since the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX back in March, of 2019 work at Boeing’s Zhoushan completion and delivery center has been suspended. As well as the facility at Zhoushan, Boeing has more than 35 direct suppliers in China, three subsidiaries, and four joint ventures.
In their response to the new government guidelines, the Seattle planemaker said it is, “working through plans to delay office openings, provide masks, and offering informational briefings and facilitate work from home options when available.”
Until the coronavirus is contained and a vaccination created, it would appear as if China is more worried about her economic might than the wellbeing of its citizens. Having said that, if companies like Airbus and Boeing want to continue manufacturing aircraft in China, they will have to do whatever the Chinese government tells them to do.
What do you think about the Airbus factory in China reopening? Please let us know in the comments.