Japan's Cabinet Office stated (14-Feb-2011) Japan's annualised GDP declined 1.1% in the three months to Dec-2010 marking the first decline in five quarters. The reduction was driven by a slowing in exports, weak consumer consumption and a reduction of government stimulus programmes. The office added that China’s USD5.88 trillion GDP surpassed Japan’s USD5.47 trillion in 2010, meaning Japan has now relinquished its position as the world's second largest economy to China. Japan has held the title for 42 years. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yuki Edano, announcing the development, said: "We are not engaging in economic activities to vie for ranking but to enhance people's lives. From that point of view we welcome China's economic advancement as a neighbouring country. The important thing is to incorporate such vitality of China to seek growth in the Japanese economy" (Xinhua, 14-Feb-2011).
China overtakes Japan as world's second largest economy in 2010
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Where the A380 flies: Japan and intra-Asia routes decline while Australia & Middle East grow
The A380 is once again under media scrutiny, despite there being no major movement on the type. Comments from Air France and Qantas about not taking further A380s have long been assumed, and it has been apparent that Malaysia Airlines does not even have the need for its A380s. Singapore Airlines not renewing the lease on its first A380 is hardly surprising, and offers no definitive conclusion about the A380 or second-hand market; early A380s had different production and are not as efficient as later models. The lack of movement on the A380neo continues to irk the model's largest customer by far, Emirates, and may not make for a productive relationship as Emirates weighs an A350 or 787 order.
For most, the A380 continues to fly. How and where it flies is changing. Flights to and from the Middle East are becoming more common as Gulf airlines, and mostly Emirates, take delivery of A380s. A further shift to the Middle East is inevitable. In Japan there has been a near exodus of A380s; airlines dropping the type as they moved from Narita to Haneda, which cannot accommodate the A380 during the day, and Singapore Airlines down-gauging. Intra-Asia flying is decreasing – notable given the growth of A380s based in the region. Services by the A380 to Australia are growing, perhaps as it becomes an easy market for airlines to redeploy capacity amid European security concerns and trans-Pacific overcapacity.
AirAsia exploring future opportunities in Northeast Asia: Chinese affiliate enticing, but difficult
AirAsia is doubling down its focus on North Asia with a regional office in Hong Kong overseen by former AirAsia executive Kathleen Tan, who is widely credited for AirAsia's strong Chinese relations and growth in China: AirAsia is the largest non-greater China airline company in the country. Across North Asia the opportunities are large, but the challenges equally big. A China-based AirAsia affiliate would appear to be a long term ambition.
More immediately, AirAsia is regaining a local Northeast Asia presence with the launch of AirAsia Japan Mk II in 2017. Although delayed from initial 2015 start-up projections, AirAsia Japan gives the group relevance in a large domestic market and significantly growing short haul international market.
Elsewhere in Northeast Asia the opportunities are mixed. Korea and Hong Kong are becoming saturated and remain protectionist. Macau and Taiwan are unlikely to be big enough to support a local AirAsia unit.