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Bigger, heavier, faster: China rolls out military upgrades

China's long-term military modernization efforts are bearing fruit, with a string of upgrades for its warships and warplanes under way amid intensifying tensions in the Indo-Pacific, particularly the Taiwan Strait.

New helicopter engine

China showcased a 1,100-kilowatt turboshaft helicopter engine at a helicopter expo in Tianjin last week. A Chinese military expert told Reuters the high-powered engine, shown for the first time, is key to China's development of medium- and heavyweight helicopters.

China still lags behind in the development of large helicopters, which can carry more weapons and cargo. They could also play a key role in transporting personnel and equipment in conflict scenarios.

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Bigger, more advanced frigates

China launched a bigger and more advanced version of its biggest frigate at the end August, according to state and Hong Kong media reports, which cited experts as saying the new Type 054B frigate could be equipped with an integrated electric propulsion (IEP) system, a more advanced radar with better detection capability, and a combined diesel and gas power system that makes it harder to detect.

The new frigate displaces about 6,000 metric tons – 2,000 tons heavier than the current 054A. It is also equipped with a 100mm main gun, replacing the 76mm main gun on the 054A, according to media reports. The new ship is about 147 meters long and 18 meters wide, while the 054A is 134.1 meters long and 15.2 meters wide.

The Type 054B will travel faster, go further, and is harder to detect, making it better at anti-submarine tasks. It could be used as an aircraft carrier escort.

Western analysts have noted that China has lagged behind in anti-submarine warfare, which are vital to protect long-range aircraft carrier operations. A media report quoted a Chinese military expert as saying the new frigate can serve as a “mini destroyer”.

The new frigate will go through sea trials after construction is completed. Two of the ships are being fitted out in shipyards in Shanghai and Guangzhou.

More powerful engine for stealth fighter

China is conducting small-scale flight tests for its J-20 stealth fighter equipped with new WS-15 engines. In July, the aircraft flew with two of the domestically made WS-15s, media reported. The new engine, replacing the older WS-10C, is meant to give the J-20 more thrust, higher speed, the ability to fly supersonically without using fuel-guzzling afterburners, and a longer range. That could put U.S. bases in South Korea, Japan and Guam within range of the J-20, said another media report.

Larger-scale tests are expected to follow. Chinese state media cited an expert as saying that more powerful engines are also most likely under development.

Aircraft carrier prepping for sea trials

China is in the final stages of preparing its third but first domestically designed and made aircraft carrier – the Fujian – for sea trials, a key step before the warship goes into operational service.

Online images of the conventionally powered vessel under construction while docked at a shipyard in Shanghai show construction sheds above three tracks of the electromagnetic catapult aircraft launch system – the biggest feature of the carrier – have been removed recently. This suggests the carrier will most likely join the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) within two years as scheduled, a media report said this month.

Fujian underwent propulsion tests and mooring trials this year; the next step would be sea trials. Chinese carrier operations are closely watched by regional militaries, with some military attaches and analysts noting the PLAN still has some way to go in mastering the complex operations needed to protect the vessels far from shore.

Possible amphibious assault ship upgrade

Images online and media reports have noticed shifts in the manufacturing process of China's 075 type amphibious assault ship.

China has three such ships, considered critical for a possible Taiwan island attack. China claims the democratically governed island as its own; Taiwan rejects such claims. The new process suggests the warship might be upgraded with integrated electric propulsion, the same as that of the Fujian, a media report cited an expert as saying, boosting its air assault capabilities.

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Almarai signs an MoU with the Authority of People with Disabilities to train and employ them.

Almarai Company signed a memorandum of understanding with the Authority of People with
Disabilities to train, qualify and employ persons with disabilities. This came on the sidelines of
the First International Labor Market Conference, organized by the Ministry of Human Resources
and Social Development on December 13 – 14, 2023, at the King Abdulaziz Convention Center
in Riyadh.

The memorandum was signed by the Chief Human Resources Officer of Almarai Company,
Fahad Mohammed Aldrees, and the CEO of the Authority of People with Disabilities, Dr.
Hisham bin Muhammad Al-Haidari.

“This agreement comes within the framework of the company’s social responsibility program, as
Almarai employs more than 500 people with disabilities, which is one of the most suitable work
environments for them.” Fahad Aldrees said. Pointing out that Almarai has the “Silent Line”,
which is one of its production lines that is designated for people with hearing disabilities.

It is worth mentioning that Almarai supports over 300 charity organizations annually across the
kingdom that operate in the field of community development.

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Central Phuket Shopping Center Prepared Surprises This Christmas & New Year 2024

Central Phuket Shopping Center, the luxury lifestyle landmark o Phuket, invites everyone to celebrate Christmas and New Year 2024 in The Great Celebration 2024 Campaign. Joining hands with global partner ‘The Pokémon Company’, Central Phuket bring over Pokémon, the super cute character popular around the world, for all locals and international fans. The special campaign launch presents a procession of cute ‘Pikachu’ alongside with the giant Christmas tree for the first time in Thailand.
This December, Central Phuket prepared many activities for shoppers when visiting Phuket! Experience the “Surprise of the Day” with free Cotton Candy for our little ones, a sweet and fluffy treat, a special gift from Central Phuket. Bring your kids to enjoy this sweet treat every Saturday and Sunday throughout the month of December. Don’t miss the Christmas Carol that
everyone loves, little Santas spread freshness by singing together in the Christmas Carol activity. Plus, Christmas Live Music, the festival of joy is back! Celebrate Christmas in a luxurious and classy atmosphere, enjoying the music that will bring us joy. Also, there will be Christmas Troop, Santa Claus is coming to town! The Santa troop will spread happiness throughout Central Phuket. Lastly, Cake Workshop, workshop activity with Chef Sebastien’s IRON CHEF Thailand teaching how to make Christmas Vanilla Cake. A special activity for the Christmas season. Moreover, Central Phuket provides special promotion exclusively for international tourists throughout December 23 – January 24 including:

1) Get Free! Tourist welcome discount package valued up to THB 10,000.
2) Receive THB 100 Gift voucher when spending up to THB 2,500 per receipt.
3) Get to buy ‘Happy Holiday Collections’ special price: Pokémon 2-in-1 pillow blanket, tumbler, travel bag set, and keychain. Visit redemption counter for the price.
4) Exclusive for Grab Users get discount code up to 25% off* when traveling to participating Central Shopping Centers.
5) Receive famous Elephant Pants when spending over THB 5,000 in shopping center.
6) Get Free! H&M THB 100 gift voucher when booking any accommodations in Phuket with Agoda. Terms and conditions apply.

Central Phuket is a home of global luxury brands such as Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Ermenegildo Zegna, Gucci, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, and Saint Laurent. Exclusive for this season, Louis Vuitton launches a pop-up store located at Central Phuket. The design is inspired by the story of Damier or Checkerboard, the brand’s signature pattern. This classic pattern was created by Louis
Vuitton and his son Georges Vuitton in 1888 and has always been part of the design of Maison’s iconic items and concepts. Find clothes, shoes, bags, and accessories for men at the Pop-up Store from Louis Vuitton at Central Phuket, 1st floor, from today until 31 March 2024. And with over 500 renowned fashion brands and lifestyle shops ranging from local to international
well-known brands covering all categories, international shoppers will be able to find what they are looking for in Central Phuket.
Central Phuket is located in the heart of one of the world’s most famous beach cities, Phuket and await to welcome both locals and international visitors this holiday. Also, don’t miss one of the most joyful New Year Count Down events in Phuket city at Central Phuket Shopping Center on December 31, 2023.

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Saudi Fund for Development Provides $100 Million Development Loan for the Rogun Hydropower Project

The Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) Chief Executive Officer, H.E. Sultan Al-Marshad, signed a new development loan agreement with the Minister of Finance of the Republic of Tajikistan, H.E. Kahhorzoda Fayziddin Sattor, through which SFD is contributing $100 million USD to fund the Rogun Hydropower Project, a landmark initiative that will enhance energy,
food, and water security, and foster sustainable development in the country. The signing was attended by the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the Republic of Tajikistan, H.E. Waleed Al-Reshiadan, and the Ambassador of Tajikistan to Saudi Arabia, H.E. Akram Karimi, alongside other officials from both sides. SFD’s development loan will help contribute towards a more sustainable and equitable food and water future for Tajikistan, while driving the country’s energy transition and climate resilience. The project aims to contribute to the national energy security and will help advance sustainable
development in the Republic of Tajikistan, by providing the renewable electricity supply to meet local demand and expand electricity production domestically and regionally, producing 3600 MW of energy. The loan agreement will also finance the construction of a 335-meter-tall dam, which will enhance irrigation capabilities and bolster agricultural activities across the country. Additionally, the project will improve flood protection through the construction of four hydraulic
tunnels for diversion and drainage. It will also provide clean and drinkable water to people through desalination, and help advance socio-economic development, by creating both direct and indirect jobs.
Importantly, this project also supports the realization of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); specifically, SDG 2, Zero Hunger, SDG 6, Clean Water and Sanitation, and SDG 7, Affordable and Clean Energy.
On this occasion, the CEO of SFD, H.E. Sultan Al-Marshad, said: “Today’s signing marks a major milestone in our shared journey towards a more sustainable future. With this landmark development loan, SFD is not just supporting Tajikistan’s energy future, but also its sustainable development and the well-being of its people. The Rogun Hydropower Project is a beacon of
hope for a bright future that is powered by clean, renewable energy. It will propel Tajikistan towards environmental stewardship and prosperity.”

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