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Restless and Resistless
By Jack Cameron

Our correspondent Jack Cameron is currently developmental editor for a forthcoming book about e-commerce in China and its influence on Southeast Asia, by lawyer and business-consultant Marco Gervasi. The book suggests that e-commerce in China is developing so fast and effectively that other nations in Asia are looking at it as a benchmark. Gervasi suggests that this could mean that the China e-commerce model and culture might soon grow beyond its borders, and in so doing exert considerable influence in neighboring countries.

The most striking thing, from a geographical point of view, which is to be seen along the China coast is the recurrent phenomenon which we are about to describe. The rugged coast line, the many bays, the chain of islands fringing the coast, the whole gamut of geological and geographical forms which one encounters in an intimate coastwise journey, are all very striking and grand, and yet they are static—passive, after all. Notable as they are, they are but silent witnesses of those restless and resistless forces which have brought them into being.


If you have heard of Hangzhou, it is likely for one of four reasons. The first of these is Marco Polo, who is alleged to have visited this city in Southeast China and to have written about it in his Travels. The second is West Lake, “Xihu” (西湖). The pride and joy and centerpiece of the city, it is ringed with gently landscaped parklands and leafy thoroughfares, for which reason it is during national holidays ringed thick with travelers and tourists – the May holiday of 2014 saw over 600,000 people flood into Hangzhou, and they all came for the lake. The city is also an hour away from Shanghai by express railway, and for foreign nationals it is practically impossible to live in or even visit Shanghai and not know about Hangzhou. (Even when Hangzhou was a three-hour bus or train ride from Shanghai, Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province, was referred to by Shanghainese as “Shanghai’s back-garden”. Thanks to the high-speed railway, residents of these cities and their economies are mingling more than ever.)  And fourth, there’s Jack Ma, founder and CEO of Alibaba.  

Hangzhou was for a time the national capital, and subsequently was home to a remarkable flourishing of the arts. It is the southern terminus of the Grand Canal, and is the capital of one of the most economically vibrant and flourishing provincial economies in China. GDP per capita is roughly USD$13,000 (ranking just behind Beijing and Shanghai), and the Lancome Counter in a local upscale department store here has higher turnover than any other Lancome outlet on the planet. 

These and other interesting cultural, historical, and economic facts about Hangzhou are, generally, less widely known. But that is likely to change.  E-commerce is part of the reason. But the Hangzhou of Wikipedia and the local Ministry of Feelgood isn’t the Hangzhou you need to know.

The evidence that Marco Polo came to Hangzhou (much less China) is slim. This of course is not the place to discuss the matter, and it is heresy in these parts even to suggest that perhaps Hangzhou’s most famous foreigner made-up the whole story about visiting the remarkable city of “Kinsai” – blasphemy to suggest politely that Kinsai might not even refer to Hangzhou. Neither facts nor their absence has dampened the enthusiasm of the municipal government of Hangzhou for banging loudly the Marco Polo drum, and indeed the city has just appointed its first “Modern Marco Polo” goodwill ambassador (a Swiss national). Marco Polo is a good myth, and people sometimes prefer good myths to historical facts.  

Another myth is that Hangzhou is an international city. It is not, though it bills itself as one, and civic spin doctors like to trace Hangzhou’s cosmopolitan roots to Marco Polo and its place in the history of global engagement along the Silk Road.  That history is often tethered to the presence in Hangzhou of the many foreign firms the municipal aldermen like to cite when boasting of the city’s internationality. True enough, the shelves of shops in the arcade of Hubin Fashion Street groan under the weight of Hermes scarves and the seasonal selections of Armani, Zegna, and Cartier. Sofitel, Hyatt, and Four Seasons are here. Four-wheeled product sparkling in the windows of Ferrari, Aston Martin, Bentley, Rolls Royce, and Lamborghini taunt those who will never steer anything that doesn’t have handlebars. There are two GAPs, two Uniqlos, scores of Pizza Huts, and more than two dozen Starbucks. But for all the international brands and the global corporate presence, Hangzhou is still a town, and the people here live and move with town mentality. Shanghai it is not. Kinsai, it probably never was.

The West Lake – well-managed and fringed with gardens - is Hangzhou’s pride and glory. For decades now it has been one of the top destinations in China for domestic tourists, while the number of international visitors appears to be growing steadily.  Perhaps outranking in importance both Marco Polo and the beloved bushes whence come Hangzhou’s justly famous Dragon Well green tea (龙井茶), the lake is Hangzhou’s calling-card and brand-identity. One could likely demonstrate, too, that Hangzhou owes as much of its development over the past two decades to the West Lake as it does to its proximity to Shanghai and the knock-on effect of private wealth in the hands of high-rollers from Wenzhou and Ningbo.  As the focus of domestic tourism, the West Lake Scenic Area brings in a ton of cash for the city, keeps city center hotels and centrally-located food and beverage venues in the black, and provides opportunities for unskilled and semi-skilled employment. The shallow lake, and its deep and ancient cultural associations with leisure (both refined and spirited), have together done much to define the character of the city, and to set the pace of life here. Between Hangzhou’s growing (and occasionally in-your-face) affluence, and her (comparatively speaking) laid-back vibe, this is a city many Chinese would love to live in if they could. Seen through the lens of Chinese priorities, it is easy to understand why. Throughout the 1990s and the last decade, this verdant city - with a pulse palpably less tachycardic than Shanghai – has attracted a number of large international companies, as well as domestic talent. For five consecutive years Forbes Magazine has ranked Hangzhou among the top five cities in China for business, and for the past two years it has been ranked #3 and #2 – again, just behind Shanghai. According to the Hangzhou municipal government’s official English-language website, the World Bank (also for five consecutive years) has declared Hangzhou the best city in China for investment. 

It is perhaps irrelevant to all of this, but the West Lake is not really a lake. It is a pond – a man-made pond, created out of a lagoon that formed when waters from the Qiantang River ebbed and flowed in and out of a depression --- a volcanic crater, I think I read somewhere. Management of the basin, which was long a cluster of marshes before it was a bounded body of water, goes back at least as far as the 8th century, when then-governor of Hangzhou Mi Li began to channel water out of the wetlands via aqueducts into city wells. Successive poet-governors of Hangzhou – first Bai Juyi in the mid-Tang, and then Su Dongpo in the Song – undertook comprehensive management projects which included dredging, weeding, and the building or rebuilding of causeways. By the Wuyue Period (ca.900, between Bai Juyi and Su Dongpo), regular maintenance of the pond had become an established part of public works management, subsequent to the massive weeding and dredging project ordered by Emperor Qian Liu. Flooding from the nearby Qiantang River (West Lake had now and then been referred to in antiquity as Qiantang Lake, after the emperor), and tendencies both to dry-up and clog the aqueducts with weeds meant that the health of the population and the flourishing of the city depended to a large degree on taking care of the pond. As the pond, the scores of tea houses around  and the flotilla of rowdy pleasure boats upon it increasingly attracted painters, poets, and literati, West Lake and the hubbub on and near it also made a deep impression upon the thousands of pilgrims who journeyed to Hangzhou’s many temples. Culture and commerce traveled both the Grand Canal and along the regions many waterways; and whether through art and literature or through personal narrative - the merchants and the monks, the pilgrims and the bargemen, the scholars and court officials - the fame of the lake spread far and wide, and with it the fame of the city. 

It was still in antiquity that the dependency of the city upon the culture of West Lake – the idea of Hangzhou as one-half of “heaven on earth” - was established. Today, as it was one thousand or more years ago, it is impossible to think of Hangzhou and not think of West Lake. But for all that, West Lake is a pond – a pond created out of a swamp. ‘Lake’ does of course have a grandeur that ‘pond’ does not -- Marco Polo would hardly have written about a pond. But whether we call it a lake or a pond, and whether Signor Polo ever stood on its banks, these former wetlands and the waterways that fed and still feed it have ultimately made Hangzhou what it is today: a nouveau-riche town that likes to think it is an international city, built around a pound which is referred to as a lake.
The Grand Canal and West Lake are both the result of huge, labor-intensive projects whereby the human will was imposed upon Nature in order to achieve ends to which Nature herself was indifferent or hostile. But there remains another body of water in Hangzhou for which engineering could never do more than provide a compromise between the forces of Nature, on the one hand, and the wishes and desiderata humankind on the other. We refer to the Qiantang tidal bore.

If Polo’s visit to China is a subject of historical debate, and if there’s little scientific agreement about how to best to distinguish between lakes and ponds, there is at the moment no question that the world’s largest tidal bore occurs in Hangzhou. Racing along at some 40 kilometers per hour, with a crest averaging around nine meters in height, the spectacular “Silver Dragon” is one of the natural wonders of the world, and taming it has forever preoccupied the peoples who have lived along the banks of the Qiantang River. The oldest known tide table in the world is said to be for this tidal bore, and there is suggestion that it was calculated (ca. 1056) and promulgated in the interests of sightseers, who have been literally swept away by the waves for as long as they has roared along the river. Perhaps seeking to maximize the tourism potential of Hangzhou’s natural assets, China’s officialdom finally relented in 2013 and - with Red Bull sponsorship - a number of pro surfers were finally allowed to hang ten in the Qiantang, a name which means “Qian’s Seawall”.

This is the city in which Ma Yun (Jack Ma) was born and raised, and in which he founded and based both Alibaba and spin-off product Taobao. Taobao is an e-commerce platform which – without exaggeration – has changed the way Chinese shop, use their computers and handsets, provender their domestic larders, eat, contemplate their own consumer behaviors, and even understand the world beyond China’s borders. Jack Ma’s story has been told many times, and it is not our purpose to rehearse a narrative lately told so well by Porter Erisman, for a long time the most senior foreign executive at Alibaba and Jack Ma’s principal Western aide de camp. But virtually everyone Marco Gervasi interviewed in the course of his research is doing what she or he is doing – directly or indirectly - because of or in response to Alibaba or an Alibaba product. That means (among other things) that for Chinese e-commerce entrepreneurs, Hangzhou is not just Shanghai’s back-door garden, or a charming southern city with a pretty pond and a genteel history steeped in green tea and poetry. For Chinese, it is a place where dreams are made, and where dreams actually come true. Whatever the nousphere or Weltanschauung of Hangzhou in Jack Ma’s youth, Hangzhou had the right ingredients for the creation of e-commerce.  An apt metaphor, perhaps, since the kind of Traditional Chinese Medicine preferred in these local latitudes is decoction – the mingling and brewing of herbs from the TCM pharmacopeia.

For three consecutive years at least Hangzhou was ranked the Happiest City in China. Not incidentally, this period is the same timeframe during which a number of Alibaba employees became millionaires overnight (after Alibaba’s IPO) and Taobao reached its first acme. Contemporary poets and literati do not, so far as we know, compose odes to Alibaba, or paint watercolors of their offices. But Hangzhou’s most famous ‘Ma’ is Ma Yun, and not Ma’ke Boluo. 

And rightly so. We’ve no evidence that any specific aspect of the rich cultural milieu of Hangzhou – the aesthetic and literary implications of West Lake, the Grand Canal, and the Qiantang tidal bore – had any specific influence upon Jack Ma, and we are reluctant to overplay metaphors or force symbolisms. But if the Grand Canal did make possible the movement from north or south and vice versa of peoples, goods, and ideas – all transportation technology is a form of communication technology – the Taobao platform moved an idea of what business is from Hangzhou to the edges of Southeast Asia. Its wave is still in motion, and it roars like the Silver Dragon. Hangzhou’s young e-commerce entrepreneurs, riding the Silver Dragon to fields of gold, remain restless; and the forces Taobao set in motion, in this city and beyond, are resistless. 

The world has other manmade lakes, canals, and seawalls, but the early corvee labor of Hangzhou created West Lake and its two causeways, dug the southern channels of the Grand Canal, and built and rebuilt breakwaters to hem-in the Silver Dragon with their own tools and principles of engineering. The muscle that did all this was powered by local produce, prepared and seasoned to local tastes. The public works to which Hangzhou owes all of its lore and most of its life owe nothing to the ways, means, and methods of Western peoples.  Their aqueducts were not based on those of Rome. Their art is not part of the legacy of Greece. Their temples were not inspired by the holy places of Jerusalem or Byzantium. The ingredients of Hangzhou’s greatness, and the distinctive features of its intellectual and artistic heritage, came from the early peoples of China, and have been refreshed over the centuries by Chinese energy and inspiration. The indigenous peoples of Shanghai – linguistically they are the cousins of Hangzhounese – took a full frontal blow from Western modernity in the beginning of the last century, and since then have been absorbing and rejecting foreign elements like no other city in China. Shanghainese born after 1980 can contemplate their city and its distinctive culture in terms of the ongoing dialogue between the Chinese culture of Shanghai and the cultures of those metics who have made Shanghai a beguiling bouillabaisse of styles and mores. But Hangzhou was made mainly by the Hangzhounese, and by those Chinese brought into the orbit of Hangzhou by its small but dense center.  And what’s more, despite the Cadillacs on the roads, the Bottega Veneta handbags on the passenger seats, and the iPhones in the handbags, the Hangzhounese have actually done a good job pushing back any deeper Western influence. The intentional rejection Western culture – or: the unintentional blunting of any Occidental impact that goes beyond luxury products, or doesn’t have a price tag – is easy to overlook when one is eating McMuffins and counting H&M outlets.

To understand Chinese e-commerce, and to appreciate Marco Gervasi’s thesis about East-Commerce, this is where one needs to begin. Not necessarily with Hangzhou, but with the following insight: The percolation into the Hangzhou (or Chinese) aquifer of Western branded merchandise - Western stuff – has little to do with the Westernization of a people, community, or culture. In the early days of Alibaba, Jack Ma remarked (and on more than one occasion) that foreign employees were for the time being a means to an end only, and that one day Alibaba would be managed and staffed wholly by Chinese. Ebay and Paypal might have inspired Taobao and Alipay, but they are Chinese creations. And while the waters of the Hangzhou Bay drink from the same oceans that lap the shores of all continents and all littoral nations, by the time that water found its way inland – mingling with the Qiantang, and filling the lagoon that would one day become West Lake – it was the water of Hangzhou, of the people of Hangzhou. What the Chinese are doing with their Internet – and note: not the Internet, but their Internet – is changing the rules of retailing, branding, and marketing in China, and in Asia. 

Marco Gervasi’s book, East-Commerce, will be published in September 2014.

Latest 5 Stories

National Rollout of Burger King's Impossible Whopper

The Impossible Burger patty in a Burger King Whopper is the biggest bang so far in the galaxy of plant-based meats, and now that bang is even bigger: The Impossible Whopper goes nationwide at all 7,200 Burger King locations in the US on Aug. 8. After a successful test in St. Louis, which is battleground over the definition of "meat", the Impossible Whopper spread to San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami and other cities, but national rollout has always been the benchmark of a new era in fast food.

Nationwide availability of the Impossible Whopper does much to assuage concerns that plant-based patties are a fad, a concern cited as a reason that McDonalds hasn't yet made a similar move. When and if McDonald's does choose (really, anoint) a plant-based "meat" patty it will be a bellwether, thanks to the brand having twice the number of locations and nearly four times the sales as Burger King in the US. McDonald's introduced a McVegan in Germany using a plant-based "Incredible Burger" from Nestle that has all the hallmarks of clear broadside at Impossible.

The new McVegan made with Nestle's "Incredible Burger" debuted in McDonald's German locations shortly after the Impossible Whopper was announced.

While the big food chains offer burgers, tacos, breakfast sandwiches and soon bacon made with plant-based meat, an even bigger battle is shaping up in grocery stores. Impossible just cleared a major hurdle toward offering its plant-based meat in stores, thanks to a favorable FDA ruling over the safety of heme, the plant ingredient that allows the burger to "bleed." Barring any objections that offer new proof the heme is unsafe, Impossible could have its burgers in grocery cases by this fall.

Aside from a specially formed Impossible Burger patty that conforms precisely to Burger King's bun diameter, the Impossible Whopper features the same bun, cheese and condiments as a traditional Whopper.

The Impossible Whopper has moved from regional availability to taking its place on Burger King's main menu page.

"We're making meat from plants. That's never been done before," Impossible Foods founder Pat Brown told me, tacitly demoting competitor Beyond Meat's plant-based burger, which has been offered at most of the 1,100 Carl's Jr. restaurants since the beginning of 2019. "People have made plant-based replacements for meat, but they haven't made plant-based meat."

One way the Impossible Whopper will indeed differ from the original is price, costing a significant $1 more in an industry where brands have gone to war brandishing menus of items that only cost a dollar. As with electric cars, price parity with the established choice is a future linchpin to mainstream success.

On the left is the Impossible Whopper we hacked in Impossible's test kitchen. On the right, a traditional Whopper, indistinguishable visually and on the palate.

"Once we have products that taste the same or better and that cost less, plant-based and clean meat will simply take over," according to Bruce Friedrich, executive director of the Good Food Institute, which champions plant- and cell-based meats.

"So very little will change in people's everyday lives as more and more meat is produced either from plants or from cells. Consumers will continue to buy burgers, chicken sandwiches and sausages, [but] those products will simply not have the adverse impact on our environment and global health."

Impossible says its team spent an inordinate amount of time getting its burger to survive the "death-defying drop" at the end of the broiler-conveyor without breaking apart.

The Plant Meat Wars are Just Starting

Burger King doesn't break out sales figures for Whoppers, let alone its expectations for the more expensive Impossible Whopper, but some insights can be inferred from a 2018 survey by Faunalytics. Assuming price was no different between beef and alternative burgers, 65% of consumers polled said they'd still stick with beef, 21% would choose a plant-based burger like Impossible, and 11% would select a cultured burger grown from animal cells, which isn't expected on the market until the early 2020s.

But Impossible's Pat Brown feels such surveys leave out the qualitative experience. "If you give them our burger, and then ask them the question again, a very large majority of them say they would definitely buy it and would be willing to pay a premium for it."

Acceptance of plant-based meats turns not only on taste, texture and price but on overcoming momentum. Environmental and animal welfare arguments have triggered a million conversations and social media posts about meat's issues, yet US per capita meat consumption hit an all-time high in 2018.

A case of Impossible Whopper patties, the result of a long effort to comport to the realities of the fast food industry, not the other way around.

And while burgers are the American diet icon, steaks aren't far behind, and an even bigger challenge in alternative meat marketing may soon unfold at fast casual steak chains like Outback or Texas Roadhouse. Unlike burgers, steaks generally arrive on the plate unadorned, without bun, cheese or condiments to mask any shortcomings. Get steak right, so the thinking goes, and the plant-based dominoes begin to fall.

Source: CNET

HIS Celebrated with a Groundbreaking Ceremony at its new site

At the auspicious time and date of 10:08am, August 8th, Hangzhou International School (HIS) celebrated with a Groundbreaking Ceremony at its new site on Huxi Road (close to Yingcui Road). Students, Parents, Faculty, Board Members of the HIS Community attended along with a number of VIP guests, including Deputy Secretary General Of Hangzhou Mulnicipal Government, Mr. Cheng Hua Min, Deputy Secretary of Hangzhou Education Bureau, Ms. Zheng Li Min, Deputy Chief of Hangzhou Education Bureau, Mr. Mao Wei Min, Chief of Binjiang District, Mr. Li Zhi Long, etc.

Hangzhou International School (HIS) was first opened in 2002 at its current site in Binjiang, alongside the campus of No. 2 High School. HIS serves students from 2-18 years old and is the first International School and only IB and WASC accredited school in the region. The school enrolls over 700 students from over 50 nationalities. Graduates attend top universities around the world. The Director of School, Mr. Jeffry Stubbs, has worked with HIS for thirteen years and has seen the rapid growth of student enrollment over the past years.  As the current school has reached capacity, the new campus will accommodate up to 1300 students and include state-of-the-art purpose-built facilities, including: 25-meter swimming pool, 650 seat theater, two soccer fields, three gyms, 3 libraries a design center, and separate early childhood facility.  The new school will also meet the highest ratings for energy and environment design.

Since 2017, Hangzhou International School (HIS) has worked in collaboration with the Hangzhou Municipal Government, Hangzhou Education Bureau and Binjiang District government, to establish a new facility for future growth.  In December 2017, HIS signed an agreement with the Binjiang District to lease land and build a new campus in the White Horse Lake area of Binjiang District.  The new HIS campus is located at the foot of beautiful Langdai Mountain and surrounded by water canals and park space.  White Horse Lake is located about a 15-minute drive from the current site.  While the current HIS has been a wonderful home with many memories and achievements, the HIS community is excited about the additional facilities and 21st century design of the new campus.

HIS is an IB World School that offers the expatriate community in Hangzhou an inclusive international experience and curriculum (Nursery to Grade 12) based on the International Baccalaureate (IB) framework. HIS is the first and only international school that is fully accredited by an international accrediting association and authorized by the IB. The school currently serves students from over 50 nationalities. As a community, HIS administration, staff, parents, and students work closely to achieve high levels of success for every child. Graduates attend prestigious universities throughout the world.

Flying Frenchman Successfully Cross the English Channel

Second time lucky: Daredevil French inventor Franky Zapata, 40, becomes the first person to successfully cross the English Channel on a jet-powered hoverboard a week after his first, failed attempt.

·   French inventor Franky Zapata has crossed the English Channel on a kerosene-powered hoverboard
·   The 40-year-old is the first person in history to complete the flight following a failed attempt last week
·   He landed on the White Cliffs of Dover after just 23 minutes of flight following takeoff at Sangatte, France

Flying Frenchman Franky Zapata today became the first person in history to cross the English Channel on a kerosene-powered board not much bigger than a tea tray – saying it 'feels magnificent!'.

The 40-year-old set off towards the White Cliffs of Dover from Sangatte beach, in Calais, at 7:16am UK time in front of a cheering crowd.

Within seconds he was soaring through the skies looking just like a high-tech version of Marty McFly, the character played by Michael J. Fox in the ‘Back to the Future’ films.

There were shouts of ‘Allez le Flying Frenchman!’ and ‘Go Franky, go!’ including from Mr Zapata’s wife, Kystal.

And at 7:39am – 23 minutes later – the triumphant Mr Zapata landed at St Margaret’s Bay in Kent, saying: 'Frankly, this feels magnificent!'.

The army reservist and former Jetski champion lifted an arm in the air in triumph, shed a tear, and savoured his incredible success.

'There were no problems this time,’ he told waiting reporters. ‘Frankly, I’m tired – I’m not on holiday, but I’m elated. Thanks so much my team, and to my wife'.

'For the last five to six kilometres I just really enjoyed it. Whether this is a historic event or not, I'm not the one to decide that, time will tell.'

'We made a machine three years ago...and now we've crossed the Channel, it's crazy,' he said, before breaking into tears.

Ms Zapata had been left hugely disappointed on July 25 when he failed in his first attempt to complete the same 22.4 mile journey.

Then, he had crashed off a refuelling boat 12 miles into the trip, but this time a larger vessel and landing platform were used.

The self-styled ‘Flying Frenchman’ travelled at a speed of some 87mph, staying at least 49 feet above the water.

French naval vessels kept an eye out during the crossing in case of trouble.

Calais authorities also gave him permission to keep the refuelling boat in French waters, something they had refused the first time around due to safety concerns.

Temperatures were above 25C on Sunday, the sun was shinning brightly, and there was next to no wind or waves.

The state-of-the-art device, which was built from scratch, resembled a souped-up tea tray and could reach an altitude of 10,000 feet. It was powered by five turbojet engines.

Mr Zapata wore a flying suit inspired by the lead character in the superhero movie Iron Man.

There was a maximum of 42 litres in Mr Zapata’s backpack, meaning he once again had to refuel half way across the Channel.

This meant landing on a boat, and swapping backpacks during a stop of no more than two minutes.

He added: ‘We created a new way of flying. We don't use wings. You are like a bird, it is your body that is flying. It is a boyhood dream. We want to follow a little bit in the footsteps of the pioneers of aviation.’

Mr Zapata hopes his device will one day enter commercial production, as a revolutionary piece of military hardware.

Last month, the board impressed crowds at France's annual July 14 Bastille Day Parade, where Mr Zapata zoomed through the air 50ft above Paris's Place de la Concorde dressed as a soldier and brandishing a rifle.

The Home-made Hoverboard that Flies at 120mph and Can Reach 10,000ft

Franky Zapata's designed his home-made hoverboard himself, which is inspired by the flying suit worn by the lead character in the superhero movie Iron Man.

Powered by five jet engines, the impressive 'Flyboard Air' can propel its driver through the sky at impressive speeds of up to 120mph and reach an altitude of 10,000 feet.

The state-of-the-art device, which he built from scratch, is powered by kerosene which is widely used as a fuel in the air industry.

Mr Zapata admits it is very similar to the hoverboard used by Marty McFly, played by Michael J Fox, in the Back to the Future films.

However, current models of the Flyboard Air can only stay airborne for about ten minutes on a single tank of fuel.

The impressive board operates via a small joystick and the rider must maintain a rigid body position while using small movements to help steer.

Last week, the Flyboard Air wowed crowds at France's annual Bastille Day Parade, where Zapata zoomed through the air 50ft above Paris's Place de la Concorde, donning soldier's uniform and holding a rifle.

Mr Zapata now hopes it will one day enter commercial production, as a revolutionary piece of military hardware - and he was even granted £1.26 million by France's Ministry of Defence to develop it.

Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said that the board would be 'tested for different uses, for example as a flying logistical platform, or indeed as an assault platform.'

He previously broke a Guinness World Record by using the hoverboard to travel more than 7,388ft off the coastal town of Sausset-les-Pins - but was almost prosecuted by France's Civil Aviation Authority for the impressive feat.

He has since flown the Flyboard Air across a stretch of the Arizona desert.

Mr Zapata initially designed a board powered by water jets a decade ago, using a hose from the exhaust of a jet-ski to power an aerial device.

It can blast riders roughly 30ft above the waves, and allow them to perform somersaults and other tricks.

It has been in commercial production for several years now and is popular among thrill-seeking holidaymakers across the world.

Mr Zapata then spent four years developing a device that does not need to be connected to a jet-ski, so can fly over both land and sea.

Resource: MailOnline

New 2,000km Highway Through Russia Will Connect China to Europe

The missing link of the “New Silk Highway” is set to finally be completed. Construction has begun on a new highway that will stretch from Russia’s border with Kazakhstan to Belarus, serving as a critical part of the China-Western Europe transport corridor—an infrastructure mega-project that has been described as the “construction of the century.”

Once completed, the China-Western Europe transport corridor is meant to be the primary nervous system of the Silk Road Economic Belt, the overland portion of China's Belt and Road initiative. The corridor begins at the Chinese port of Lianyungang on the Yellow Sea and stretches along the Lianhuo Expressway, China’s longest road, to the Khorgos dry port on the border of Kazakhstan before moving through Russia en route to Western Europe. The corridor is meant to eventually combine road, rail and air transport hubs into a multi-modal ecosystem which could revolutionize the economic role of the central stretches of Eurasia and alter our paradigms of how goods are shipped between China and Europe. Ideally, this highway would allow trucks to travel between China and Europe in just eleven days, as opposed to 30-50 days by sea and 15 days by rail, making it the fastest overland option of the New Silk Road.

While the China-Western Europe transport corridor got its start in 2009, it was hamstrung by Russia’s reluctance to give its portion of the project proper attention and funding. For years, the corridor served as a high-speed transit route into the heart of Eurasia, rather than a bonafide “Silk Road” which properly connects the east with the west. Trucks would speed across China and Kazakhstan on one of the world’s most modern highways only to run aground at the Russian border, where they would meet head on with infrastructure of a more modest persuasion. However, the fortunes of this mega-project may soon change.

Dubbed the Meridian highway, Russia’s long-awaited portion of the China-Western Europe transport corridor is now under active development. It is to become a 2,000km toll road from the Sagarchin crossing point with Kazakhstan to the border of Belarus.

This new highway is slated to cost in the ballpark of $9.3 billion, with most of the financing coming from private firms rather than public coffers—although investors have sought $500 million of government backing to hedge against potential unforeseen political upheavals, such as the closing of borders. The main player behind the project is a Russian investment holding called LLC Meridian, a company that’s fronted by Alexander Ryazanov, the former deputy chairman of Russian gas giant Gazprom and current board member of RZD, Russia’s railway monopoly, who claims to already be in possession of 80% of the land the road is slated to pass through.

The Meridian highway is primarily being developed for cargo transport, and the main stream of revenue is expected to come from tolls, which Ryazanov estimates will take at least 12-14 years to recoup his company’s initial investment. However, the highway is also posited to generate a large amount of knee-jerk development along its route and create new jobs, in addition to reducing transport times from China to the west of Russia three-fold, according to the Russian Ministry of Transport.

One concerning aspect of the project is its geopolitical overtones. Jonathan Hillman of the Washington D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, points out that the route of the new highway subverts Ukraine, which “would add to a series of Russia-led transport projects that limit Ukraine’s connectivity with the east." Political objectives adulterating transport routes and countries battling their rivals with large-scale infrastructure projects are nothing unusual on the New Silk Road. The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway, for example, takes a conspicuous long-cut around the contour of Armenia, further cutting the small country off from its neighbors and putting it on the outside of the trans-Eurasian cargo flows that are starting to trickle through.

Hillman also pointed out that Russia could improve the future of this project by removing glaring trade barriers in the Eurasian Economic Union. One of the biggest bottlenecks of the Belt and Road isn’t just the fact that there are gaps in key trans-Eurasian transport routes but Russian sanctions against the import and transit of many products that could otherwise be shipped overland between Europe and China, which has actually given rise to a competing new corridor that bypasses Russia to the south.

While Russia has always officially been a participant in China's Belt and Road initiative and the broader New Silk Road, the country's level of actual commitment has always remained in question. Spanning across much of the Eurasian landmass, Russian participation is necessary if China's Belt and Road is to flourish. Two of the major overland routes between China and Europe pass through Russia, and Russian and Belarusian transport companies are often the workhorses behind the scenes that actually make these corridors function. However, Russia has carried out policies, including the above mentioned sanctions, which run directly against the "win-win" nature of the Belt and Road, and have been prone to delay or otherwise hamper the development of key infrastructure projects that must pass through their realm. The start of the Meridian highway is a good indication of where Russia is leaning as the Belt and Road picks up momentum.
Source: Forbes

These Pools Failed to Pass the Water Quality Inspection

Last week, we posted an article titled “Do You Know How Much Urine is in the Swimming Pools?” The survey at the end of the article showed that more than 60% of respondents have peed in the pool.

Recently, the supervisors of the Municipal Health and Wellness Committee conducted random monitoring of 289 swimming pools in Hangzhou. The first list of pools that failed the inspection was announced. Let's take a look at them, you might have been to quite a few.

Remark: According to the "GB9667-1996 Swimming Pool Hygiene Standards", the standard value of free residual chlorine (pool) is 0.3-0.5mg/L; the standard value of urea hygiene is ≤3.5mg/L; the total number of bacteria is ≤1000CFU/mL.

The results are not all bad and there are some safe and clean swimming pools in Hangzhou. Check out the list of A-class swimming pools, and go ahead to have a nice swim.

A Little More to Know   

Free Residual Chlorine: The requirement for free residual chlorine is to ensure that the water in the pool has a continuous ability to disinfect and can inhibit the re-propagation of residual bacteria in the water.

Urea: Urea in the pool is mainly derived from our sweat, secretions and excretions. Excessive urea content indicates a higher degree of contamination of the pool water.

Total bacteria: The total number of bacteria can be controlled when there is enough disinfectant in the pool, the pH value is kept within the specified limits, the circulation of pool water is appropriate, the swimming pool filtration equipment is often cleaned, and the swimming pool hygiene management is strengthened.

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