Airbus began assembling A320 jets at its new Tianjin plant in September using parts shipped from Europe.

It plans to begin its first deliveries of aircraft to Chinese airlines in June.

The factory is jointly owned by Airbus, which has a 51 per cent stake, and a consortium that includes China Aviation Industry Corp., China's biggest aircraft maker which has ambitions to carve out its own name in the international aviation market.

But the opening of the Tianjin plant has been criticised by European trade unions who say the move adds to outsourcing fears amid the recession and could result in the loss of European aircraft technology to a potential jet-making Chinese rival.

Airbus sees the move to start building jets in China as part of a long-term strategy to win a greater share of the Chinese market from Boeing, its US-based rival.

Both companies have been battling to increase their share in fast-growing Asian markets as demand for new aircraft weakens in the US and Europe.

Airbus says it has more than 700 orders from Chinese airlines and says it anticipates a need for more than 3,000 large aircraft by 2025, including potential orders for up to 180 of its A380 super jumbo passenger planes.