China Southern Airlines (CZ, Guangzhou) and China Eastern Airlines (MU, Shanghai Hongqiao) are planning to resume taking deliveries of B737 MAX aircraft in 2023, in a step that could mark a quiet de-escalation of the ongoing trade tensions between the United States and China.

China Southern said in its annual report that it planned to take thirty-seven B737 MAX in 2023, followed by 35 in 2024 and 31 in 2025, restoring its previous plan of adding 103 aircraft of the type. The ch-aviation fleets module shows the airline currently operates thirteen B737-8s and has a further 44 on firm order. However, Chinese airlines habitually remain tight-lipped about their aircraft commitments usually placed through state-owned lessors and disclose future orders shortly before deliveries.

In turn, China Eastern - whose fleet currently comprises three inactive B737-8s with a further eight on disclosed order - plans to take two aircraft in 2023, followed by six in 2024.

China Southern Airlines became the first Chinese carrier to resume commercial operations of its B737-8 in January 2023, nearly four years after the type was grounded. The redeployment of the type happened without much fanfare but was subsequently followed by other airlines - though not China Eastern, which keeps its B737 MAX grounded. China was the last major jurisdiction to unground the B737 MAX.

Frustrated by Chinese hesitancy to resume taking deliveries of new B737 MAX jets, Boeing said last year that it would start to remarket some of the aircraft initially earmarked for Chinese customers. The manufacturer is also lobbying the White House to seek assistance in reestablishing sales in China.

The ch-aviation fleets module shows that besides China Southern and China Eastern, the following Chinese airlines took delivery of B737-8s before the March 2019 grounding:

In early March, Hong Kong's Greater Bay Airlines ordered fifteen B737-8s. However, as a Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR), Hong Kong has an independent aviation regulator and a largely autonomous trade policy.