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China’s domestic air cargo sector, currently the second biggest in the world, has undergone rapid expansion in recent years, with volumes up 13 per cent in 2007 to some 3.96m tons. In 2008, cargo volume was predicted to reach 4.45m tonnes, an increase of 12 per cent. Most foreign traffic passes through Shanghai.

However, the airports themselves are for the most part unprofitable and poorly run. Only 152 civilian airports were in operation throughout the country at the end of 2007, with just 40 open to international flights. As part of a Rmb4,000bn stimulus package announced by the central government in November 2008, investment in airport construction is expected to total Rmb200bn in 2009, double the amount spent in the previous year. By 2010, the number of airports is expected to rise to 190, rising to 244 in 2020.

In 2009, the Civil Aviation Administration of China plans to start construction of airport infrastructure in large cities such as Chengdu, Xian and Guangzhou and more than 40 other mid-sized cities. In the following year, it plans to building work will begin on new airport facilities in Shanghai, Wuhan and Nanjing and more than 20 other mid-sized cities.

Authorities are focusing their attention on central and western parts of the country, which have the fewest facilities per head of population. In addition, regulators are now offering preferential incentives to attract investors to western and some central locations.
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