As China strives for leadership in the world’s most advanced industries, it sees commercial jetliners — planes that may someday challenge the best from Boeing and Airbus — as a top prize.
And no Western company has been more aggressive in helping China pursue that dream than one of the aviation industry’s biggest suppliers of jet engines and airplane technology, General Electric.
On Friday, during the visit of the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, to the United States, G.E. plans to sign a joint-venture agreement in commercial aviation that shows the tricky risk-and-reward calculations American corporations must increasingly make in their pursuit of lucrative markets in China.
G.E., in the partnership with a state-owned Chinese company, will be sharing its most sophisticated airplane electronics, including some of the same technology used in Boeing’s new state-of-the-art 787 Dreamliner.
For G.E., the pact is a chance to build upon an already well-established business in China, where the company has booming sales of jet engines, mainly to Chinese airlines that are now buying Boeing and Airbus planes. But doing business in China often requires Western multinationals like G.E. to share technology and trade secrets that might eventually enable Chinese companies to beat them at their own game — by making the same products cheaper, if not better.