The contract, signed on Monday Gustav Humbert, chief executive of  Airbus, and Li Hai, the president of the China Aviation Supplies Import and Export Group, is for aircraft from A320 family of single-aisle planes.
  
It is nominally worth around $9.7 billion based on catalogue prices but an undisclosed discount was applied, as often occurs for large orders. 
  
Jacques Chirac, the French president, who met Wen just before the signing, welcomed an "important co-operation protocol" China and Airbus signed on Sunday that opened the way for the purchase contract. 

Protocol
  
The protocol aims to improve co-operation between the European plane manufacturer and China's civil aviation sector and includes the "possibility" of establishing an Airbus assembly plant in China that would turn out single-aisle planes such as the A320.
  
The Chinese government delegation also signed a contract to produce a new helicopter of six to seven tonnes with the helicopter manufacturer Eurocopter. The aircraft, named the EC175, is to go into development in 2006 and production is to start in 2011.
  
Eurocopter is a fully owned subsidiary of the European Aerospace, Defence and Space (EADS) company. Airbus is owned 80% by EADS and 20% by Britain's BAE Systems.
  
Other contracts signed included a deal for the French company Alcatel to make a Chinasat 6B telecommunications satellite and a $175 million financing agreement for the construction of a high-speed rail line in China. 

Airbus contract
 
The contract involving Airbus calls for European company to supply China with A320s, which typically seat 150 passengers, and modified versions of the aircraft: the shorter A319, which typically has 124 seats, and the longer A321, which can seat 185 people.
  
"It is the biggest order Airbus has ever received since entering the Chinese market 20 years ago," the company said in a statement.
 
It was not immediately clear if all 150 planes were firm orders, or whether some were options.
  
Airbus is seeking to topple US rival Boeing's dominance of the Chinese civil aviation sector by clawing its way up to 50% market share. It currently has around a third compared with Boeing's 60%.
  
Boeing won firm orders for 70 of its mid-range planes, the 737s, and options for another 80 during a visit to China by President  Bush last month.