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What was always understood by Boeing leadership to have been a temporary freeze contingent upon the eventual recertification of its 737 Max inside China, has now shifted to a new phase with its top executives anticipating a long-term exclusion from its most important market.

Boeing CEO David Calhoun’s message has become increasingly pessimistic, accepting that a company that spent 45 years building bridges in China is indefinitely in the geopolitical penalty box. “I think we’ll get back there someday. I just don’t think it’s a day soon,” he said earlier this month.

Related: A different way to think about the future of flying in China

In recent weeks, Calhoun has told associates that he believes the company will be locked out of the Chinese market with any new orders — and likely deliveries — for as much as another two years, according to those familiar with his comments. On hearing that assessment, one senior industry leader noted to The Air Current, “That decision is made in Beijing, not by Boeing.” Earlier this month he finally shared that assessment publicly.

“It’s tricky and is critically important,” said Calhoun of the relationship between the U.S. and China. “We’ve been beneficiaries of an aggressive free trade policy for decades. We will stay on that bandwagon. And we will lobby and work as hard as we can to make sure that global trade continues, and yes, it continues with China. It’s too important.”

Related: Jetliner diplomacy between the U.S. and China looks a long way off

“I don’t know how successful we’ll be, but we all collectively have to lobby for” an agenda that lowers the geopolitical barriers between the U.S. and China, said Calhoun. Boeing continues delivering 777 freighters to the country, but little else.

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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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