BEIJING, August 12 -- Less than 50 kilometers south of China's capital, there's a massive construction project underway that, once finished, will officially become the world's biggest airport.
With the opening currently planned for September 30, 2019, the construction of Daxing Airport in Beijing has cost just shy of $12 billion so far. On completion, the new airport will simply act as a second international airport for Beijing, to relieve existing pressure on Beijing's Capital International Airport. The Chinese government wants the airport to be a magnet for businesses and an attraction for locals as well as travelers. “The airport paves the way for, and guarantees, Beijing’s long-term economic growth,” says Yu Zhanfu, a partner at consulting firm Roland Berger GmbH. Yu says he expects it to boost the city’s role as a connection point for domestic travelers and those flying abroad.
Daxing is one of many airport projects under way in Asia, collectively costing more than $100 billion, to accommodate a surge in travel fueled by the region’s rising middle class. The International Air Transport Association forecasts Asia’s travel demand to surpass that of North America and Europe combined by 2037. About two dozen airports are slated to open over the next six years in cities ranging from Beijing to Mumbai, while many existing airports are adding terminals or runways. Daxing will increase Beijing’s capacity for travelers by more than 70% and alleviate congestion at Beijing Capital International Airport, the world’s second-busiest last year with more than 100 million passengers. By year’s end, Shanghai will unveil a $3 billion, 83-gate terminal that will be separate from the airport’s main building.
According to Reuters, carriers such as China Southern, China Eastern, and Beijing Capital Airlines will be relocated to the new Daxing airport, while airlines including Air China, Hainan Airlines and Grand China Air will remain at Beijing Capital International Airport. Here's what the huge construction project looks like at the moment.
BEIJING, August 11 -- Typhoon Lekima has left 28 people dead and 20 missing as it swept across China's eastern coastal cities, Zhejiang Radio reported on its official micro-blog account.
More than one million people in Shanghai and neighboring Zhejiang province have been evacuated due to the storm, which has damaged more than 3,000 homes, China Central Television reported. Lekima, which made landfall in Zhejiang early Saturday morning, has weakened to a strong tropical storm, according to the National Meteorological Center. The center has downgraded Lekima to yellow from orange, and has an orange rainstorm alert. China has a four-tier color-coded system for severe weather, with red being the most serious, followed by orange, yellow and blue. Lekima forced Shanghai to suspend services on several metro lines, according to the local government's official WeChat account. Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines were among those that announced flight cancellations, and high-speed rail services were affected in multiple cities, according to local media. Shanghai and Hangzhou airports are restoring operations gradually, according to Ctrip's flight tracking data and the local government. Taiwanese airlines cancelled about 520 international and domestic flights, according to local aviation authorities. Emergency units are working to repair roads, water and electricity, Global Times, a tabloid published by the Communist Party's People's Daily, reported on its Weibo account.
Mainland China's main financial hub had braced for Lekima after the typhoon ravaged Taiwan and affected Japan. Government offices, schools and businesses, including financial markets, were shut across northern Taiwan last Friday. More than 50,000 homes lost power overnight last Thursday, though electricity was mostly restored by last Friday morning. Taiwan's Central Emergency Operation Centre reported at least one death and four injuries in the wake of the storm. At least four people were hurt in Okinawa, while flights and ferries across the southern Japanese islands experienced widespread disruptions, according to a report by the Deutsche Presse-Agentur. Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau said Lekima had sustained wind speeds of 184km per hour, with gusts of 227km an hour last Friday morning. Mr Scott Hsieh, a senior meteorologist at CWB, said it was the strongest typhoon in the western Pacific so far this year.
SEOUL, August 8 -- Japan has approved export of a high-tech material to South Korea for the first time since imposing tighter curbs last month, but doubled down on political pressure and warned it could broaden restrictions on shipments to its Asian neighbor.
The approval and subsequent warning illustrate how Tokyo is upping the ante in the diplomatic row while at the same time is unwilling to unilaterally stop exports to South Korea. The dispute, rooted in their wartime past and exacerbated by the recent tightening of curbs on shipments of three high-tech components, has stoked nationalism and raised trade concerns. Relations between the two United States allies worsened late in 2018 as part of a decades-old dispute over compensation for forced laborers during Japan’s occupation. South Korea has invoked its difficult history with Japan, which colonized the Korean peninsula during World War II. South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Thursday (Aug 8) that tighter curbs would undermine Japan’s international credibility and accused Tokyo of using its industrial advantage as a weapon against another country. “The measures so far undermine the trust of the free trade order and the international division of labor,” Mr Moon said. “Even if there are any gains, it will be short-lived. In the end, it is a game without winners, where everyone, including Japan itself, becomes a victim.” The latest export approval followed “strict examination”, Japanese ministers said, cautioning that Tokyo could consider expanding its controls beyond the three high-tech materials. "If improper use of exports are found beyond three high-tech materials, we will implement thorough steps to prevent recurrence including expanding application examination,” Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said. Mr Seko said Japan does not usually announce each export approval but did so this time after South Korea described Japan’s recent curbs as an “embargo” on shipments. South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon said Tokyo had allowed the export of EUV photo resists, a chemical crucial for Samsung’s advanced contract chip making production. Samsung declined to comment.
Japan has removed South Korea from the “ white list” of countries with fast-track trade status, meaning some exporters may have to go through a lengthy permit application process to ship restricted items to South Korea. That covers a broad range of items, including those applicable to weapons production and machine tools. South Korea was scheduled to take a call on its plan to drop Japan from a similar “white list” of countries on Thursday, but trade ministry officials said the plan had been put off until further discussions. Japanese officials have cited unspecified security reasons for their export curbs. But they have pointed to an erosion of trust after South Korean court rulings last year ordered Japanese firms to compensate wartime forced laborers. Japan says the matter was settled by a 1965 treaty normalizing bilateral ties. Given the curbs in place, Japan’s approval to export the three materials could take up to 90 days, slowing shipments. Shares of Tokyo Ohka Kogyo rose 3.9 per cent and Stella Chemifa surged 10.1 per cent after the latest approval. Tokyo Ohka Kogyo makes photo resists and Stella Chemifa produces hydrogen fluoride, both materials affected by the export curbs. But it remains unclear if the initial approval from Tokyo signals a breakthrough in trade relations. “They approved only one out of a number of items, and they said they would approve exports for pure civilian purposes,” a South Korean senior trade ministry official said. South Korean chipmakers are hitting a dead end in their quest to find alternatives for key Japanese materials that have been hit with export restrictions, raising the prospect of major disruption to their operations in coming months. Of particular concern is sourcing of hydrogen fluouride, a key chipmaking material. South Korean chipmakers have been desperate for Japan’s high-purity hydrogen fluoride because it helps them get high “yield” rates, which is critical to making chips profitably.
BANGKOK, August 6 -- Updated M2 is still in a class of its own amid the arrival of more price-affordable sports cars.
Like in many new Mercedes-AMGs, BMW’s M cars now come in two power guises. While the basic version carries a regular badge, the Competition moniker is used on the go-faster variant (AMG uses the S letter). But that’s not exactly the case with the M2 Competition, as tested here on Thai roads, which actually forms as the mid-life update of BMW’s smallest M-honed coupe. Yes, it’s more powerful than the regular model, but the M2 Competition boasts a new engine. Replacing the 370hp single-turbo sixer (N55) is a 410hp twin-turbo unit (S55), detuned from that used in the M3 and M4. For M fans, this mechanical change might already be sufficient for an update, which is probably why they might choose to overlook some small cosmetic alterations like a reshaped black kidney grille, as such. The price of the M2 Competition is set at 6.259 million baht, higher than the pre-facelift model by 360k. That’s still decent when you consider that the 300hp versions of the Jaguar F-Type and Porsche 718 Cayman are priced from six and 6.6 million baht accordingly. But, on the other hand, some new lower-priced sports cars have arrived on Thai shores after the M2’s inception including the sub-5 million baht 460hp Ford Mustang V8 and 390hp Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe. Can any comparison with the M2 Competition be valid?
When we first drove and thrashed the M2 around a racetrack in the US three years ago, it was noted that more power could have served better justice for the chassis. In fact, the M2 inherited the front sub-frame from the M4 ever since. So here it is, the S55-tagged straight-six that not only makes the M2 Competition genuinely powerful in a straight line but highly entertaining when roads start to meander. The carried-over dual-clutch automatic is still terrific to use thanks to its quick shifting operation (the M2 could be among the last to use such a gearbox now that the M boys have gone soft with torque-converter autos in their latest creations). Thanks to a rear-drive chassis, it’s relatively easy to unsettle the car’s tail upon a moderate tap on the throttle. It’s a playful attitude that many driving enthusiasts have come to like, apart from the M2 already being highly agile to steer. Adding up to driving fun is the so-called MDM mode that allows drivers to enjoy wheel spins and control slides within a loosened safety net. Power from the 400hp-plus engine easily overwhelms the chassis in many real-world conditions recalling the old days of the E46-based M3. Yes, you don’t have to risk losing your license to have a good time in the M2 Competition. But if you like outright speed, it’s governed top speed will be attained with no sweat in the open, like in the Mustang. Despite being a compact coupe, the M2 manages to offer enough space for four without being inferior to both the Ford and AMG. The racy feel in the M2 Competition is enhanced with the usual quad exhausts, nice-looking 19-inch wheels, blown rear wheel arches and sumptuous amounts of carbon fibre trim in the cabin. Rivals are also tailored similarly, but it feels more pure in the Bimmer.
Possibly the biggest downside in the M2 Competition is the stiff ride where no adjustable dampers can be found. It’s quite bouncy over uneven road surfaces, even for driving purists. The obvious benefit, though, is good high-speed stability. Anybody liking to blast away in an unfussed manner might find the all-wheel drive system (and more comfortable riding chassis) in the C43 a boon. But that’s almost missing the point in a car designed for tail-waggling. And, surely, the M2 Competition can’t match the Mustang’s V8 for aural thrills. But, again, as a turbocharged inline-six, the noise sounds naturally mechanical and loud when provoked. Some people like that.
Buy or bye?
To answer the question posed earlier, making comparisons with the cheaper alternatives is quite invalid because each of these trio serve a different purpose and slightly varied audience. The Mustang appeals to enthusiasts liking its V8 and for what it is in a name; the C43 offers fast and easy manners for those not needing the full-fat AMG treatment; the M2 Competition serves up raw thrills for those seeking the joy of driving fun. And if you’ve already read about AMG’s latest CLA45 we've driven for the first time recently, Merc’s pocket rocket is still less involving to drive in comparison to the M2 Competition. What the M2 Competition has managed to really do for the first time is plug the gap between itself and that equally fine 718 Cayman in terms of driving enjoyment. That bi-turbo engine should have been available in the M2 all along its time.
ROTTERDAM, August 6 -- Shared electric scooter schemes are less environmentally friendly than originally advertised by operating companies.
With a new study showing that an e-scooter trip is generally more polluting than one by electric moped or bike or even in a standard diesel-powered bus. The study, published by researchers at North Caroline State University, counters the widely circulated assertion that a lack of exhaust pipe on the electric two-wheelers make them a greener transportation alternative. After an analysis of their life-cycle—which looked into the manufacturing, transportation, maintenance and disposal processes they require—the study found that a one mile (1.6 kilometers) trip on an e-scooter generally emitted more greenhouse gases than one using alternative means of transport. “The dock-less scooters generally produce more greenhouse-gas emissions per passenger mile than a standard diesel bus with high ridership, an electric moped, an electric bicycle, a bicycle—or, of course, a walk,” a report of the study in MIT Technology Review said. Half of the reasons behind the e-scooters’ newfound carbon footprint comes from their resource-intensive sourcing and manufacturing processes, a problem that is exacerbated by the fact that the actual lifespan of the e-scooters is relatively short once they hit the streets. Several incidents in cities worldwide see the units flung into rivers and canals, damaged or even stolen.
The need to constantly gather and recharge the scooters accounts for the second-largest share of their emissions, or 43%, according to the report in MIT Tech Review. Ultimately, “roughly two-thirds of the time, scooter rides generate more greenhouse-gas emissions than the alternative,” one of the study’s authors, cited in the outlet, concludes, adding that the increased emissions produced by users of the schemes were “greater than the gains from the car rides not taken.” Ways to cut back e-scooter emissions include using greener vehicles to collect and recharge scooters, reducing the distances between collecting and gathering points, and using more recycled materials for the production of the scooters, such as aluminium, the study concludes.
TOKYO, August 6 -- NEC Corp. unveiled Monday a prototype of an electric flying car as it seeks to offer its communications and control technologies to other companies amid the global boom to develop such airborne vehicles.
Starting with a roaring sound, the 148-kilogram helicopter-like prototype with a length of 3.9 meters, height of 1.3 meters and width of 3.7 meters came afloat by itself to 3 meters above ground and hovered for several minutes at a testing ground at NEC's Abiko plant in Chiba Prefecture. Equipped with four propellers and unmanned, the prototype moved using NEC's software to control flight and determine its location. NEC officials said the company is not seeking to become a maker of flying cars but hopes to see its technology used in them from 2023, starting with the transportation of cargo. "There will come an age where airspace will be used commonly for transportation. We will combine our technologies to create an innovation," said NEC Senior Executive Vice President Norihiko Ishiguro at a press conference. NEC said it plans to provide its technology for flying the cars to engineers' group Cartivator, with which it signed a sponsorship agreement last year. Cartivator, which is also supported by over 80 other companies including Panasonic Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp., aims to start operation of a two-man flying car from 2023, conduct a demonstration flight during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, carry people at the Osaka Expo in 2025 and mass produce the vehicle in 2026.
The Japanese government is also pushing the development of flying cars in collaboration with private companies ranging from the logistics and automobile sectors, in an effort to catch up with global rivals, including Boeing Co., Airbus S.A.S. and U.S. ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies Inc. Flying vehicles are expected to be used for tourism, leisure activities, disaster relief, cargo transportation and easing of traffic congestion, but ensuring safety remains a key challenge amid the lack of standards and rules. Under the road map compiled by the government, it aims to build prototype electric flying cars and conduct test flights this year and put the technology into practical use from 2023 onward. By the 2030s, they are envisioned to be used in urban transportation.
DUNGUN, July 25 -- China and Malaysia resumed construction on a massive "Belt and Road" train project in northern Malaysia on Thursday, after a year-long suspension and following a rare agreement to cut the cost by nearly a third to about US$11 billion.
The project was initially canceled by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who came to power after a shock election victory in May last year, as he followed through a pledge to renegotiate or cancel "unfair" Chinese mega-projects approved by his predecessor, Najib Razak. But in April, the close trade partners agreed to proceed with the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) at a cost of 44 billion ringgit ($10.7 billion), reducing it from 65.5 billion ringgit. The 640 kilometre line, with China Communications Construction Co Ltd as the lead contractor, will connect Port Klang on the Straits of Malacca with the city of Kota Bharu in northeast peninsular Malaysia. The agreement to resume work on the project had immediately boosted confidence in Malaysia among foreign investors, China's ambassador to Malaysia said at a ceremony in the coastal district of Dungun. Flanked by cranes and trucks parked near a partly completed section of a tunnel, Ambassador Bai Tian spoke of "a great wave" of potential Chinese investors coming to Malaysia for field studies, and he expected many of them to decide to invest.
China is debt-heavy Malaysia's biggest trade partner and the countries have close cultural ties too. Ambassador Bai said the completion of the ECRL, expected by December 2026, could more than double the number of Chinese tourists coming in to Malaysia from 3 million last year. Malaysia Rail Link, the project's local partner, said in a statement that up to 70% of the workers will be local and that domestic contractors will get 40% of the civil works. The Belt and Road Initiative has been praised for its potential to speed up economic development in many developing countries, but also criticised for potentially saddling many of them with unsustainable debt. Malaysia's Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng told Reuters on Monday that Beijing had offered them more BRI infrastructure investments and that Kuala Lumpur would consider them "if the pricing is right". Malaysia is already identifying new joint investment opportunities with China along the ECRL corridor, Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke said at the Dungun event.
LONDON, July 24 -- Boris Johnson, Britain’s prime minister-designate, said his government would be very “pro-China”, in an interview with a Hong Kong-based Chinese-language broadcaster shortly before he was chosen to succeed Theresa May on Tuesday.
Speaking to Phoenix TV, Johnson backed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s infrastructure-based Belt and Road Initiative and said his government would maintain an open market for Chinese investors in Britain. “We are very enthusiastic about the Belt and Road Initiative. We are very interested in what President Xi is doing [for the plan],” he said. The Brexit campaigner also vowed to keep Britain as “the most open economy in Europe” for Chinese investments. “Don’t forget [we are] the most open international investment [destination], particularly [for] Chinese investment. We have Chinese companies coming in to do Hinkley, for instance, the big nuclear power plant.” Boris Johnson, Britain’s next prime minister, has said he is “very pro-China” in an interview with an international Chinese language broadcaster. Photo: ReutersBoris Johnson, Britain’s prime minister-designate, said his government would be very “pro-China”, in an interview with a Hong Kong-based Chinese-language broadcaster shortly before he was chosen to succeed Theresa May on Tuesday. Speaking to Phoenix TV, Johnson backed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s infrastructure-based Belt and Road Initiative and said his government would maintain an open market for Chinese investors in Britain. “We are very enthusiastic about the Belt and Road Initiative. We are very interested in what President Xi is doing [for the plan],” he said.
The Brexit campaigner also vowed to keep Britain as “the most open economy in Europe” for Chinese investments. “Don’t forget [we are] the most open international investment [destination], particularly [for] Chinese investment. We have Chinese companies coming in to do Hinkley, for instance, the big nuclear power plant.” Johnson also stressed that Britain was the first Western country to join the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a move that angered its major ally, the US. Britain became a founder-member of the AIIB – the first Asia-based international bank to be independent from the Western-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund – with a US$50 million contribution to its special project fund in 2015.
LONDON, July 20 -- Britain said Iran seized two oil tankers in the Gulf on Friday and told Teheran to return the vessels or face consequences in the latest confrontation to ratchet up tension along a vital international oil shipping route.
Iran's Revolutionary Guards said they had captured the British-flagged Stena Impero, announcing the move two weeks after the British navy seized an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar. Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency said the second vessel, the British-operated Mesdar, had not been seized. It said the ship had been allowed to continue its course after being given a warning over safety and environmental issues. The Stena Impero and Mesdar changed direction sharply within 40 minutes of each other shortly after entering the Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz, taking up a course towards Iran, Refinitiv tracking data showed. The data later showed Mesdar changing direction again, heading westward back into the Gulf. "These seizures are unacceptable. It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region," British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said. Hunt later said, in comments reported by Sky News, that there would be consequences if Iran did not return control of the ships, but said Britain was not considering military options. US President Donald Trump said he would talk to Britain about the issue, speaking after a war of words earlier on Friday about whether the United States had shot down an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz. Already strained relations between Iran and the West have become increasingly fraught since the British navy seized Iran's Grace 1 tanker in Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicion of smuggling oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions. Oil prices gained on Friday after the latest spike in tensions along the Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world's oil supplies pass.
Iran's Guards, an elite force under the command of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said they seized the Stena Impero at the request of Iranian authorities for "not following international maritime regulations", state television reported. Northern Marine Management, which is owned by Stena AB, confirmed the Stena Impero was heading towards Iran. Norbulk, the manager of the tanker Mesdar, said the vessel had been boarded by armed personnel but was later allowed to continue its voyage.
BANGKOK, July 20 -- Thai Vietjet will play host to the THAIPA Airline Pilot League 2019, an annual football league for Thai pilots from airlines in Thailand.
The Thai Vietjet representative and Captain Sanong Mingcharoen, Leader of the Thai Pilots Association, held a media conference at The Grand Fourwings Convention Hotel. “Vietjet is delighted and honoured to support the activity for aviation people in Thailand, which shows our lively spirit to contribute to the community,” the Thai Vietjet representative said. He said the league will be held on August 20 at Grand Soccer Pro fields on Kaset Nawamin Road from 8am to 6pm. Twenty teams from 12 airlines and aviation institutes in Thailand are taking part this year. THAIPA Airline Pilot League aims to create and strengthen relations among Thai pilots, and harmonise the pilots association with related organisations. The league kicked off in 2014, with different airlines taking turns to host the annual event.