The Shanghai Expo (中国2010年上海世界博览会): “Shanghai’s Moment in the Sun” Posted by Stephen on May 3, 2010 in Business, Culture, News, travel
As the dazzling displays of fireworks, interpretive performances and welling nationalist pride of the 2008 Beijing Olympics fade from international memory, another pro-China, six-month event (the largest and most expensive of it’s kind) has just begun this weekend in Shanghai, China (上海 Shàng hǎi). The Shanghai World Expo or 中国2010年上海世界博览会 (Zhōngguó Èrlíngyīlíng Nián Shànghǎi Shìjìe Bólǎnhuì) is a chance for Shanghai to steal a little thunder from it’s neighbors-to-the-North, celebrating the the most modern（现代 xiàn dài) and cosmopolitan city of China, as it’s involvement in global trade, finance and culture mark it as one of the 21st century’s “new great world cities”. For 上海 it is a long overdue honor, but better late than never.
Much like in the prelude to the Beijing Olympics, the government has been allocated billions in renovation/construction funds along with an area larger than 5 square kilometers to hold expo events. They’ll be needing all that floor space considering that an estimated 75-100 million people are expected to attend the event over the six month time-period, including hundreds of dignitaries, politicians, businessmen and moguls of industry. It’s now Shanghai’s turn to shine.
The ceremony opened with with yet another massive display of fireworks, including LED screens and lazer lights over the Shanghai river (not to mention, indoor performances including the Jackie Chan variety hour). and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxvTvOFHFsA&feature=related
But the real pomp and circumstance associated with World Expos comes with the building and unveiling of pavilions (亭子 tíng zi), most of which represent an individual nation or a regional entity. If you are a fan of unique architecture, graphic design and/or interactive displays, then I urge you to start looking for plane tickets now. View Slideshow here.
Most notable of the pavilions are the five “urban-themed” Shanghai comprised of Urban Dwelling, Urban Footprint, Urban Planet, Urban Beings and Urban dreams. The goal of these pavilions is two-fold: first, it shows the conscious effort China is taking to combat climate change, and secondly, it’s trying to convince foreign politicians, businessmen and dignitaries to open up shop in China.
After all, much of this event is all about proving that Shanghai can compete with New York, London, and Hong Kong for investment and market share. Sure Beijing may be the political center of China, but Shanghai is a cultural and economic powerhouse, touting a glitzy and fluorescent skyline that attracts foreigners like moths to flame. Further, more people speak English in Shanghai than Beijing, especially among young business elites, yuppies and college students, which adds to it’s appeal as an “international city” with half a million 老外 expats. There are more western amenities, restaurants and stores in Shanghai, along with a nightlife that would give NYC a run for it’s money.
As a result, Shanghai and Beijing citizens have often been at odds of one another, calling the other “fake” or too westernized (if your a Beijinger), or too “boring” (if you’re a Shanghai resident). It’s like the back and forth between New Yorkers and LA residents, except no one knows where to find a good bagel and people are pushy everywhere in China.
So Shanghai, this is your official introduction to the rest of the world (although you’ve been a large and unofficial member for quite some time). Sure Beijing had it’s chance, but that was two years ago. No point in living in the past. Never again will you be seen as Beijing’s successful, but under-appreciated brother to the south. Bask in it, because as Beijing will tell you, the sunlight fades when the closing ceremony ends…or wait, was that just because of the pollution restrictions?