China's Military Aviation Industry: In Search of Innovation


Prolonged systemic challenges continue to strain and divide China’s military aviation industry, especially over structural consolidation, institutional reorganization, and lack of technological sophistication. Nonetheless, the sector’s overall modernization drive is among the most prominent of China’s defense industries. During the past decade, China’s military aviation industry has been gradually transforming its defense, science, technology, and innovation capabilities and narrowing the once-wide technological gaps with advanced aviation powers. In the fighter aircraft arena alone, it has been modernizing its ‘legacy’ fighters while developing a diverse portfolio of new indigenous designs, including modern fourth-generation fighters, and preparing to break into the fifth-generation aircraft market. The recent unveiling of China’s next-generation fighter aircraft prototypes the J-20 and J-31, along with accelerated modernization of the Chengdu J-10 and Shenyang J-11 fleets, shows not only the increased sophistication of Chinese combat aircraft but also, more importantly, the ongoing transformation of China’s military aviation sector.


History and Political Science


The Study of Innovation and Technology in China (SITC) is a project of the University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation. SITC Research Briefs provide analysis and recommendations based on the work of project participants. This material is based upon work supported by, or in part by, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and the U.S. Army Research Office through the Minerva Initiative under grant #W911NF-09-1-0081.

Keywords and Phrases

China; military; aviation; defense industry; innovation; AVIC

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


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© 2013 University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jan 2013