Zheng Yuan
A Brief History of China Northwest Airlines
Duration : 27 min. 48 sec.
Materials : Single channel HD video, color, sound
Year : 2018

On February 14th, 1980, Deng Xiaoping declared that “civil aviation must corporatize.” In 1987, the Chinese government decided to carry out reforms in civil aviation and establish six major airlines under the principle of “independent operation”, “self-financing” as well as “equal competition”. In March 2002, another round of restructuring was carried out: according to the reform plan of “Constructing Three Airlines Groups” by the State Council, China Northwest Airlines, founded on December 6th, 1989, was acquired by China Eastern Airlines due to a long-term run in the red, and the airline bowed out of people’s sight.

The work traces the follow-up stories of every aircraft after the airline’s bankruptcy. The particularity of commercial aircraft as a commodity, uniqueness of the Manufacturer Serial Number, and adequate data from well-established networks of international civil aviation organizations made images of sustainable online circulation, commercial aircraft in constant motion overhead into traceable archives in global trade. As the product of China’s reform to separate functions of government from enterprises, the archaeological investigation of China Northwest Airlines suggested how the potential airspace had been controlled by the strength of policies as a whole, and how material basis and value system had been segmented after a complete take-over by the neoliberal economy.