China United Airlines was established in 1986 as an arm of the civil transport division of the People's Liberation Army. In November 2002, all scheduled services were ceased, followed by a full suspension of flight operations in 2003 due to a Chinese governmental regulation prohibiting the Army from being directly involved in commercial activities. On June 4, 2005, the Civil Aviation Administration of China the relaunch of the airline, now with Shanghai Airlines holding 80 percent of the stake, as well as CASGC as a secondary shareholder. Even though China United Airlines has since then lost its military status, it is still allowed to use military airports, in contrast to other Chinese airlines.
In 2000, China United Airlines spent USD$120 million to buy a Boeing 767-300ER as Jiang Zemin's private jet. Several days before its first flight, a covert listening device was discovered, which was installed on toilet, corridor, and even in Jiang's headboard. The listening device was controlled and monitored by satellite. CIA, U.S embassy in China, and China United Airlines refuse to comment on this incident.