Chinese premier gets onboard eVTOL aerial vehicle during Hunan visit

Li's trip underscores China's efforts to double down on high-tech innovation, especially in advanced manufacturing, and an attempt to diversify away from an Internet-led growth model.

China’s newly appointed premier Li Qiang recently visited Sunward Aircraft (山河科技), an autonomous aerial vehicle startup, and sat in its aircraft for a while, China’s state broadcaster CCTV reported yesterday.

Li, who took office as premier after the recently closed “two sessions,” visited the Hunan-based startup during his inspection tour of advanced manufacturing businesses in the central Chinese province on March 21-22.

The “two sessions” are an annual gathering of the country’s top legislature and political advisory body, usually in March.

At Sunward, Li got onboard V.MO, an eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) aircraft model developed jointly by the startup and Volkswagen China.

In the CCTV video footage, he can be seen climbing into the back seat of the aerial vehicle and raising his right hand to check out the headroom.

Li’s trip underscores China’s efforts to double down on high-tech innovation, especially in advanced manufacturing, and an attempt to diversify away from an Internet-led growth model.

This has been seen by many observers as a strategic pivot amid its tech rivalry with the United States.

During a talk he gave on manufacturing, Li said real economy, especially the manufacturing segment, is the pillar of China’s economy.

Its manufacturing industry is now at a critical crossroads, requiring greater efforts and determination, Li told the audience.

According to him, the nation needs to increase its level of independent innovations in advanced technology, spur the transition of traditional manufacturers and nurture emerging sectors of strategic importance.

This is to elevate the “Made in China” brand to a higher global profile, Li stressed.

In addition to Sunward Aircraft, he also inspected BYD’s plant, China Railway Construction Heavy Industry Corporation, Lens Technology in Changsha, the provincial capital.

His itinerary also included stopovers at China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation’s subsidiary in Zhuzhou and Zhuzhou Cemented Carbide Group.

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Ni Tao

Ni Tao is the founder and editor-in-chief of cnrobopedia. Prior to cnrobopedia, he had a full decade of experience with a major state-run English-language newspaper as a tech reporter and opinion writer. He is also a communications specialist, having provided consultancy services to established firms like Siemens, Philips, ABinBev, Diageo, Group (Nasdaq: TCOM, HK: 9961), Jianpu Technology (NYSE: JT) and a handful of domestic startups. A graduate of Fudan University, he writes widely about China's business and tech scenes and other topics for global publications including South China Morning Post, SupChina, The Diplomat, CGTN, Banking Technology, among others, and tries to impart his experience to students at Fudan University Journalism School, where he is a part-time lecturer. When he's not writing about robotics, you can expect him to be on his beloved Yanagisawa saxophones, trying to play some jazz riffs, often in vain and occasionally against the protests of an angry neighbor. Get in touch with him by dropping a line at

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