China will add at least 200 international air routes next year, a senior aviation official said on Thursday.
The additions will be made as the government focuses on increasing flights with nations involved in China's Belt and Road Initiative, the official said.
Li Jiaxiang, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said the nation now has 663 international routes operated by domestic and foreign carriers, of which 369 were launched this year.
"We will open more than 200 international routes next year. A major reason is that we intend to strengthen air links among countries related to the Belt and Road Initiative because air transportation is vital to international travel," he said.
Li made the remarks on the sidelines of the annual civil aviation industry conference in Beijing.
He also said China had signed bilateral air transportation agreements with 118 countries by November.
The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013, refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt, which will link China with Europe through Central and Western Asia, and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, stretching from southern China to Southeast Asia and Africa.
The ambitious plan is expected to benefit about 4.4 billion people in 65 nations, according to the government.
Last year, China's trade volume with these nations and regions reached $1.12 trillion, about 25 percent of its overall global trade for the year.
"We estimate that our civil aviation industry will enjoy a big boost in 2016 thanks to the rapid expansion of air transportation sectors in countries covered by the initiative," Li said.
But he said China has to address the shortage of infrastructure and airspace available for civilian flights in order to help the industry grow.
Li said in June that the country would invest about 200 billion yuan ($32 billion) to develop 51 civil aviation projects designed specifically for the Belt and Road Initiative before the end of this year.
Li said this year has been the best yet for Chinese airlines and airports, which have earned profits of 54.7 billion yuan to date.
This has made China the best-performing market in global air transportation, he said.