With the World Expo slated to open in Shanghai on Saturday, reporters and commentators are looking at what it will mean for Shanghai, for China, and for the world. The Independent writes about a crackdown on dissent in the run-up to the opening:
People critical of the government have been questioned, some borders closed and migrant workers cleared from the city; in preparation for the arrival of an anticipated 70 million visitors over six months, including five million from abroad.
The event is China’s largest set piece event since the successful Beijing Olympics in 2008 and they have sought to transform the moribund 150-year-old economic exhibition with an estimated £38bn spending on the city and infrastructure, according to local media. The work has transformed an area larger than Monaco into a giant exhibition site.
French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, as well as Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, are among the leaders due to attend the opening ceremony today; in an event designed to rival the glittering opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing games. North Korea is also participating in the World Expo for the first time.
“One goal the Chinese government hopes to accomplish by hosting grand spectacles such as these is to re-brand China as a thoroughly modern and strong country, dispelling any lingering image of it as the ‘sick man of Asia’,” Jeffrey Wasserstrom, a professor of history at University of California, said.
The New York Times looks at the Expo’s long- and short-term impact on Shanghai’s environment:
In the 10 years since it was chosen to host the show, Shanghai has undergone a massive face-lift at a cost of $45 billion, about the same amount as spent on preparing Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games.
Some of the Shanghai investment has gone toward short-term and superficial improvements like paint jobs and new facades for buildings throughout the city. But other projects will pay dividends long after the last of the Expo’s expected 70 million visitors have come and gone. These include new roads, tunnels and bridges, and a vast expansion of the city’s public transit systems.
Far into the future, Shanghai’s six new metro lines and its improved light rail network should continue to help alleviate congestion and air pollution, two of the city’s most serious problems.
Meanwhile, in the Telegraph, Liu Xiaoming, Chinese Ambassador to the UK, writes that “The Shanghai Expo is a worthy symbol of today’s China.”
– “On eve of Shanghai Expo 2010, China finds ‘soft power’ an elusive goal” from the Christian Science Monitor
– “A Little Danish Mermaid Comes Up for Air in China” from the New York Times
– “Q+A: Why is Shanghai holding the World Expo?” from Reuters
– “China Rules the World at Expo 2010,” an essay and slideshow by Adam Minter in The Atlantic