China, which has had an alternating love-hate relationship with private and personal aviation for decades, now wants to increase the number of registered general aviation aircraft to 3,500 by the end of 2025. According to official data from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), there are currently 2,892 such aircraft documented, along with some 517,000 drones. According to the most recent numbers from AOPA, there are roughly 198,000 GA aircraft in the U.S. and some 5100 GA airports (compared with 500 airline airports).
China’s current “Five-Year Plan” (2021-2025, the 14th such plan in its history) also calls for increasing its GA airports to more than 500, from 339. The plan also calls for instituting at least 25 provincial-level regional GA emergency rescue services over the next three years. Proponents of GA in China have long recognized that promoting the use of aircraft for emergency and medical transport services can be an effective way to kick-start non-military or airline aviation operations.
For years, there has been a back-and-forth as the central government would, first, promote business and general aviation to support economic growth, then pull back with anti-elitist initiatives, mainly targeting business jets, but also compromising light, personal-transportation operations. Since the military controls much of the airspace, advancing GA has been an uphill battle. The current pro-GA lean calls upon not only improving emergency services, but also supporting innovative use of drones and upgrading aviation services in the agricultural and industrial business sectors. According to reports in Asian news sources, general aviation in China is defined as “aviation services for agriculture, disaster relief and rescue, and recreation.”