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Flight path no.18

New horizons

Beijing — AIR CHINA

Route: Chengdu to Colombo
Airline: Air China
Plane: Airbus A330
Frequency: Four times a week

The year did not start out exactly as planned for Sino-Sri Lanka relations. The surprise defeat of Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa (who led the nation with more than a touch of autocracy for a decade) by his former colleague Maithripala Sirisena in January’s elections marks a new beginning for the country’s 20 million people and the nations it does business with. Under Rajapaksa, China was one of the most influential trading partners. Beijing not only invested billions of dollars into Sri Lanka’s infrastructure but also supplied the bulk of the arms needed to defeat the Tamil separatist movement in 2009.

With a “strategic co-operation partnership” in place, China has stood by Sri Lanka when its human-rights record has come under question. And when the former president needed help constructing the port and airport he built in his hometown of Hambantota, it was China he turned to. Beijing sees Sri Lanka as crucial to the development of its Maritime Silk Road, with the island’s south coast lying a few miles from the shipping lanes that could connect China with India and oil-producer Iran.

Air China’s new Chengdu-Colombo service, which runs four times a week, was no doubt developed to capitalise on the close relationship between the two nations. And having had a consulate in Chengdu since 2009, Sri Lanka is already committed to the Sichuan capital. The Airbus a330 will make the journey in five-and-a-half hours and connect Colombo with one of China’s busiest hubs outside of Beijing and Shanghai. This will enable connections to not only every region of the country but also Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and across Southeast Asia.

While many expect new president Sirisena to steer his country more towards India than China, as Sri Lanka’s third-largest trade partner it’s unlikely that Beijing will be sidelined. Also connected to Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and Guangzhou via Sri Lankan Airlines, Colombo’s businessmen won’t find it hard to get business done in China.

Green shoots


Having run on a promise of transforming Taipei into a “garden city,” mayor Ko Wen-je wants to earmark public land as gardening plots for residents. Six test sites have been chosen and a survey is underway to find more land that has appropriate sunlight and drainage conditions. “With experience from the test sites, we will be ready to involve the wider public in our sustained effort to make Taipei greener and healthier,” says Yu-Hui Chang, the director of the Taipei Parks Office. The government’s hope is that Taipei residents will all play a role in building a healthy and sustainable community through accessible urban farming.

Time for waste

Kawasaki — POLITICS

Can rubbish trucks run on power made from the waste they collect? Kawasaki, a city of 1.4 million residents, is about to find out. This autumn the city will begin an experiment with two electric-powered trucks whose batteries can be recharged with energy generated by incinerating rubbish. Each vehicle can cover 50km before needing to recharge its batteries.

The idea, using technology developed by JFE Engineering and Nissan, is expected to lower the city’s diesel-fuel bill by ¥1.3bn (€10m) and carbon emissions by 24 tonnes per bus annually. “We use 141 garbage trucks now; we want to find out whether adding electric-powered trucks makes sense,” says city official Megumi Sato.

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