Shanghai Bids Farewell to Massive World Expo Fair

After years of preparation and anticipation, the Shanghai World Expo has now ended. From BBC:

Officials say a record 72m people – most of them from across China – visited pavilions staged by more than 240 countries and organisations.

China has reportedly spent some $60bn (£37bn) preparing for the fair.

The figure – mentioned in Chinese state media – is more than was spent on the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

However, the Shanghai government only confirms that its budget for the fair was $4.2bn.

And from Al Jazeera:

Xinhua has published the full transcript of Premier Wen Jiabao’s speech at the Expo today.

On Shanghai Scrap
, Adam Minter writes about why he thinks the Expo was a significant story that was ignored by much of the Western media in China:

If you believe the official figures, Expo 2010 was visited by more than 70 million people, many millions of whom waited in long ticket lines, outside of the gates, in the heat of July and August (to be sure, quite a few visitors also received their tickets for free), for the chance to wait in long lines within the Expo grounds. The obvious question is: what was the appeal? The less obvious question is: why didn’t the foreign media probe this question? More precisely, rather than ignore the phenomenon, why didn’t anyone pause to ask what was it about contemporary China that drove so many people to do something that most foreigners – especially foreign reporters who are lock-step disdainful of crowds and mass events enjoyed by Chinese – had no interest in doing?

I’ve been dismayed by the number of reporters and expatriates who’ve ascribed the huge attendance figures to lemming-like Chinese behavior, and free tickets (see recent posts and comments on my blog, for starters). Leaving, for another time, the elite mindset necessary for a foreigner (much less, a foreign reporter) to dismiss the interests of the locals as being mechanical and totally manipulated by the CCP, let’s just assume that rural Chinese aren’t much different than hyper-educated foreign reporters. And what I mean by that, as a foreign reporter who attended the Expo more than fifty times, is this: the folks who attended Expo, either in groups or on their own, were many things (aggressive, enthusiastic, patient), but never once did I sense that they were stupid, or so lacking in other options that they’d willingly spend hours in line, in the heat of August, for something that didn’t interest them – just because they received free tickets. [Below, Chinese visitors to the sublime Iceland pavilion.]

Or let’s put it this way: it’s very easy, I think, to stand atop the Expo Boulevard, look down at the six-hour line outside, say, the Saudi Arabian pavilion, and imagine that you’re look at a bunch of lemmings with free tickets. But is that really the best, much less only, explanation? Or is there something else going on down there? Could it be, just possibly, that all of those people are curious to know something about a country capable of spending (reportedly) well over $100 million on a pavilion, and lacking the opportunity to travel there themselves (unlike most Expo critics in the foreign media), are taking the only route available to them? Six hours, in that sense, may not be such a long time.

October 30, 2010 11:10 PM
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