China to start 200 new international air routes in 2016

China will launch at least 200 new international air routes in 2016, Chinese state-run newspaper China Daily reported last week.

“A major reason is that we intend to strengthen air links among countries related to the Belt and Road Initiative; because air transportation is vital to international travel,” said Li Jiaxiang, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, as quoted by the newspaper.

The term ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, proposed in 2013 by China’s President Xi Jinping. It aims to connect better the economies along the routes, and enhance trade across Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa through infrastructure development.

According to Mr Li, China currently has 663 international routes operated by Chinese and foreign carriers, 369 of which were launched in 2015. He added that in November China had already signed bilateral air transportation agreements with 118 countries.

This week the China National Tourism Administration said that in 2015, 120 million Chinese travelled outside Mainland China. The organisation added it was a 19.5-percent increase compared to 2014, Portuguese news agency Lusa reported.