Shanghai Is Sprucing Up Its Image

Howard French, the former bureau chief for the New York Times, revisits the city to see how it is preparing for the World Expo:

History has encouraged Shanghai’s people to feel a certain entitlement to the spotlight. After all, this is China’s first truly modern city, its first world city, and it remains China’s largest city, even if nowadays just barely so.

Shanghai’s day in the sun is fast approaching, however. In May, it will host the , an idea with a pedigree that dates back to the 19th century and which Paris, New York and Montreal, among other metropolises before it, have used to highlight their claims to trend-setting modernity and distinctive cosmopolitanism.

For some, hosting a somewhat anachronistic event like the Expo may seem a modest consolation prize compared with the glitter of the Olympics, but that does not mean that Shanghai is approaching things with anything less than the utmost seriousness. Official Shanghai, that is. Unwilling to be outdone by China’s old capital, this city is reportedly outspending Beijing’s vast Olympic preparations by a large margin.

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