US Airlines are Helping Fund China’s Belt and Road Foreign Policy Initiative

China Southern is majority-owned by the Chinese government and supervised by its State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission. It has just raised $4.36 billion in new capital from government-backed and government-linked investment funds “to implement the relevant requirements of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council on deepening the [equity diversification] reform of state-owned enterprises.”

The funds will be used for investment in the airline business in ways which advance the Chinese state’s ‘Belt and Road’ foreign policy initiative of investment in other nations to develop the country’s influence.

Last week American Airlines CEO Doug Parker met with President Trump to make the case that certain airlines are acting against the interests of the U.S. and its workers. Parker described the meeting thusly,

We asked President Trump personally to do everything he can to stand up for American workers and ensure that all airlines are playing by the rules. Our 130,000 extraordinary team members and the investments we are making in our business enable us to compete against any airline in the world, but we shouldn’t be forced to compete against governments that don’t play by the rules.

So what actions did Parker ask the Trump administration to take against Chinese state airlines being used to foster their country’s foreign policy goals? None, Parker has made no such concerns public at all. In fact American Airlines has both an investment in and codesharing partnership with China Southern.

He deploys the argument that “state subsidies are destabilizing the global airline industry and threatening to undermine our nation’s entire system of trade enforcement” and that “[l]eft unchecked, they send a signal that other countries can ignore our trade deals and trample upon our workers without consequences” shall we say… selectively.

Two years ago American Airlines provided $200 million in funding for the state-owned carrier whose overseas investments are being used to further Chinese government foreign policy interests.

That’s $200 million of course that hasn’t been spent completing their merger with US Airways by getting a contract with their separate mechanics groups, or making good on US Airways pensions that were shed in bankruptcy while retaining tax loss carry forwards to reduce future taxes on profits.

Parker, of course, isn’t alone in his hypocrisy on airline subsidies. Four years ago Delta made a $450 million investment in China Eastern which has been called China’s most subsidized airline.

United hasn’t made direct investments in its partner Air China, but continues to lobby for protection of its Washington Dulles hub against competition on flights greater than 1250 miles departing Washington National, and lost its last CEO in a bribery scandal after providing vacation flights to the Chair of the Port Authority of New York New Jersey in exchange for favorable action at its Newark hub.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “Hypocrisy” is too polite of a term to define these airline CEO scalawags who fall on their swords conveniently to protect their own monopolies, no matter how anti-competitive, in order to serve their interests.

    Amazing how pathetically the unions and politicians are not to raise the issue–if you have millions buy into Chinese state airlines, why not first focus on resolving labor contracts and alleviating the government from their pensions? What about all the subsidies provided to the US3, including the USPO, ATC, and munis to build/expand airports, gates, and runways?

    AS the economic/military fissures are exposed between PRC and USA, when does the government step into this and require the US3 to cash-out their investments in airlines of the PRC? If Chinese-built subway cars are now verboten, why would US3 investments in China not be acceptable? (Of course, who allowed Boeing to build a factory in PRC to obviously “share” its technology?)

    To hear Parker yammer how great he has made AA and how he believes in competition is like hearing the old saying, “fighting for peace is like fornicating for chastity.”

  2. @ Gary — Trump should love these guys. They will say anything to get want they want, just like him.

  3. American politicians, academic institutions, and many businessmen have been bought and paid for by the Chinese for years. Avoiding the political, do a google search about where AMD found their financing to compete with Intel and what they gave up in return.

  4. Nice article and well put. Hope folks who make important decisions read it and are aware of the reality and not just the talking points of one side or the other.

  5. Than you. This needed to be said. I hope that general-interest newspapers pick up this story, as it needs to be told.

  6. “The funds will be used for investment in the airline business in ways which advance the Chinese state’s ‘Belt and Road’ foreign policy initiative of investment in other nations to develop the country’s influence.”

    Nothing new here. The US government did the exact same thing and still does although somewhat less effectively now due to its fragmented foreign policy initiatives running afoul of negative press and other pressures.

    China just does it, does it better, and gets away with it by locking down the coverage it receives and other information meddling practices. The US government could stand to learn from some of their behaviors in certain aspects..

  7. #KeepResisting the Fascist Oligarchy
    Parker has got to go
    Good points, Gary and Mark!

    The guy Kyle over a liveandletfly seems to be supportive of tRump. Gees 🙁

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