In early September, Air China’s inaugural direct flight from Shanghai touched down at the Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport. San José Mayor Sam Liccardo, Aviation Director Kim Becker, Consul General of China in San Francisco Luo Linquan, and Air China executives greeted the passengers and crew. Chinese lion dancers performed at the arrival gates.
China’s demand for travel to California has grown quickly in recent months. Earlier this year, Air China added non-stop flights to Los Angeles from Beijing. Although Hainan Airlines already operates a direct flight from Beijing to San José, the new Air China flight is the first to provide non-stop service from Shanghai. This new connection is expected to facilitate investment and exchange between two global technology hubs, as the San José community anticipates that increased travel to Silicon Valley from Shanghai will bring $65 million more to the area each year.
San José’s economy and travel industry already benefit from exchange with Asia, and particularly with China. The city comprises California’s 17th and 19th congressional districts. These districts saw a 42-50% growth of jobs from services exported to Asia between 2006 and 2011. In 2012, visitors from Asia contributed $51 million and $32 million to the economies of the 17th and 19thdistricts, respectively. That same year, China imported $1.33 billion and $327 million worth of goods from each respective district.
Additionally, California technology companies have expanded into China over the last few years. Belmont-based solar energy company SunEdison partnered with China’s JIC Capital to generate up to one gigawatt of power by this year. Palo Alto’s Tesla Motors agreed to construct 400 electric car charging stations in China with Unicom, a Chinese phone carrier. Equinix, an Internet data center in Redwood City, joined with China’s Alibaba Group to enlarge cloud-computing networks for companies in both countries.
An Asia Society report released in 2012 predicted that California could “attract an additional $10 billion to $60 billion of Chinese investment by 2020 . . . through increased job creation, tax revenues and exports.” Air China’s newest flight has the potential to channel a significant portion of that Chinese investment into San José.
Kim Meihua Roy is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a student at Brigham Young University.