China’s plans to roll out the home-grown C919 passenger jet next year could be severely disrupted if the Trump administration restricts US companies from doing business with the state-owned conglomerate developing the plane due to its alleged links with the Chinese military. The Trump administration is expected to soon announce export controls on a list of 89 Chinese companies with military ties, including the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac), Reuters reported. Two separate sources who have seen the draft list confirmed the report’s accuracy to the South China Morning Post , adding that additional Chinese entities may be added to the list before it is officially released. The list has yet to be officially confirmed. US suppliers would be required to seek special licenses to sell commercially available items to companies on the list. In Comac’s case, the C919 depends on a series of components made by American companies, including flight controls and jet engines. A senior Comac executive said the draft list has “greatly” increased uncertainty for the company and its US suppliers. The source speculated that the Trump administration may be including Comac on the list as a way of pressuring Beijing into authorising Boeing’s troubled 737 MAX to resume flying in China. This month, the US Federal Aviation Administration lifted its ban on Boeing’s 737 MAX, after being grounded for more than 20 months following two deadly crashes. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency also proposed an airworthiness directive this week that could see the aircraft cleared within weeks. Last week, China’s aviation regulator reiterated that there is no timetable for the return of the Boeing 737 MAX to Chinese airspace, and that it will not consider approving the aircraft until there is a clear outcome to investigations into the two accidents associated with the plane. It is hard to imagine that China will buy Boeing planes in bulk while the US is sanctioning Comac Comac source But the list could prove to be a double-edged sword for the United States, the Comac source warned. “The list will also pose great challenges to Boeing, as it is planning to sell more than 1,000 aeroplanes to China in the next 15 years. It is hard to imagine that China will buy Boeing planes in bulk while the US is sanctioning Comac,” said the source, who refused to give his name due to the sensitivity of the topic. Chinese airlines will need 8,600 new aeroplanes worth US$1.4 trillion over the next 20 years, Boeing projected earlier this month, adjusting upwards its previous 8,090 estimate from last year. On Friday, the C919 moved one step closer to its official delivery by the end of 2021 by receiving the Type Inspection Authorisation (TIA) – a technical examination to check its airworthiness before the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) can issue three formal certificates that will allow the plane to enter commercial service. The Trump administration definitely wants to push out a lot of sanctions, in some ways to box in the Biden administration Ali Burney “It’s more difficult to reverse a policy [on restricting exports to Comac] than to introduce it, never mind that Biden already has a lot to deal with when he comes into power, so its highly unlikely for him to prioritise this issue,” the source said. While naturally more multilateral in nature than Donald Trump, it is thought that president-elect Joe Biden is under pressure to be as tough on China as Trump, especially when it comes to technology. “The Trump administration definitely wants to push out a lot of sanctions, in some ways to box in the Biden administration, so they cannot roll back the sanctions or export control restrictions without looking like they’re weak on China,” said Ali Burney, a Hong Kong-based partner at Washington-headquartered law firm Steptoe & Johnson. But Biden may have leeway to grant licenses to American firms doing business with China, in which case the US would continue to have the restrictions on paper, but in effect companies could continue to export to these companies, Burney said. Another potential scenario could see the Biden administration keeping the list, but shortening down the number of items that would be affected. The draft list came after the US Commerce Department imposed new restrictions on exports to “military end users” in China, Russia, and Venezuela in April, effective on June 29. If a firm is identified as a “military end user”, then exports, re-exports or transfer of any covered item to that user requires a license, even if the item is destined for civilian end use. The US imposed restrictions for “military end use” and “military end users” for Russia and Venezuela since 2014. The restrictions on China were imposed in 2007, but only covered “military end use” until the April new regulation was introduced.