The Air Current

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U.S. administrations come and administrations go, but commercial aircraft manufacturers outlast them all. Political time horizons are completely different from aerospace. Planning for the 787 dated to the later years of the Clinton Administration — first delivery didn’t come until nearly the end of the first Obama term. But even a cursory review of the infamous Wikileaks cables illustrate how interwoven the fortunes of the U.S., China and Boeing really are, no matter the White House occupant.

Boeing on Saturday officially inaugurated its first Chinese facility, delivering a Renton-built and Zhoushan-completed 737 Max 8 to Air China. Eventually 100 737 Max aircraft built in Renton for Chinese airlines will come through the new facility on the 100-acre campus each year.

Related: New rules from China set to worsen the global pilot shortage

The finishing center, a joint venture with Comac, will install passenger seats and other interior items before customer acceptance flights. The delivery center remains in the hands of Boeing and contractual handover is treated the same as they are in Seattle. Eventually, the site will feature a paint shop, a valuable and scarcely-available commodity in the company’s production empire.

But Zhoushan is a quiet island in the middle of a political and economic tempest. The tumult of a trade war and a slowing Chinese economy rage around Boeing’s new outpost. The island off the coast of Shanghai, however, is relative tranquility in the eye of the storm.

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Jon Ostrower is Editor-in-chief of The Air Current. Prior to launching TAC in June 2018, Ostrower served as Aviation Editor for CNN Worldwide, guiding the network's global coverage of the business and operations of flying. Ostrower joined CNN in 2016 following four and half years at the Wall Street Journal. Based first in Chicago and then in Washington, D.C. he covered Boeing, aviation safety and the business of global aerospace. Before that, Ostrower was editor of the award-winning FlightBlogger for Flightglobal and Flight International Magazine covering the development of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and other new aircraft programs from 2007 to 2012. Ostrower, a Boston native, graduated from The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs with a bachelor's degree in Political Communication. He is based in Seattle.

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