What’s more expensive than the Beijing Olympics, covers a vast territory and is forcing countries and international companies to splash out millions of dollars? It’s China’s latest publicity project.
If China was serious about creating a legacy after the Beijing Olympics, it is outshining all its past efforts for the Shanghai World Expo, spending US$4.2 billion on reinventing the world’s exhibition fair as a blowout extravaganza.
While previous expos in Zaragoza and Hanover went largely unnoticed on the global agenda, Shanghai is creating such a promotional ruckus, that countries are going all-out to impress an expected 70 million visitors.
“It’s for countries to cozy up. For countries like Australia or France, it’s make-up money, a tribute to the emperor. They are apologizing for all the trouble caused in the last few years,” said Paul French, chief China analyst with retail consultancy Access Asia in Shanghai.
Of 191 countries attending, most are investing record amounts to build pavilions, with governments taking the lead in providing the bulk of investment and heads of state, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, promising to make an appearance.
“The expo plays in the same league as the Olympic Games and the Soccer World Cup,” said Dietmar Schmitz, Germany’s Commissioner General at Shanghai World Expo.
Germany is spending US$67 million on its pavilion, which will let visitors sample traditional dishes like bratwurst sausage and Bavarian pork knuckle.
Saudi Arabia’s spaceship pavilion, which will feature desert date palms and a 1,600m² cinema screen — about a quarter the size of a soccer pitch — stands almost fully completed, gleaming against muddy construction rubble at adjacent unfinished sites.
The Saudi pavilion is the most expensive at US$146 million, while Australia is spending US$76 million and France is shelling out US$68 million.
China is the first developing nation to host the World Expo and officials hope the event, to be held from May 1 through Oct 31, will improve Shanghai’s position as a global city.
“It will let Chinese people understand foreign countries much better and help them better understand us,” said Xu Wei (徐威), communication and promotion deputy director for the Expo.
The US pavillion, he said, could serve as a place where Americans and Chinese could come together and better communicate.
“Shanghai will definitely be like New York in the future,” said Tang Chunyan, 30, a shop assistant in a newly renovated mall in downtown Shanghai.
Shanghai’s bustling, historic food street, Wujiang Road, known for dumplings and smelly tofu, had to close ahead of the expo, with street vendors rehoused in the air-conditioned mall.
Tang said redevelopment of the xiao chi, or snack, food street was a good thing because of a cleaner environment.
“It is sad that the old style is gone but it shows Shanghai is developing fast,” he said.
While Shanghai is stripping hawkers and various eyesores off its streets as Beijing did before the Olympics, the event is not targeted primarily for an international audience. Officials expect only 5 percent of the visitors to be from outside China.
“Much more of the focus is China and the Chinese government promoting themselves and promoting their capabilities to their own citizens,” said Greg Hallahan, strategist at business risk consultancy PSA Group in Shanghai.
Shanghai’s government has spent US$45 billion to upgrade transport and infrastructure and US$700 million on renovating the historic Bund riverfront promenade. In just a year, the city has doubled the metro system to 420km of track and opened a new airport terminal to accommodate tens of thousands of visitors per day.
While Shanghai prides itself on putting on a “world-class event,” not all residents feel they are benefiting from the showcase exhibition.
“The expo is just showing China has money, using ordinary people’s money to make it,” a 54-year-old Shanghai taxi driver said.
The Australian government yesterday said that it had decided against buying the single-dose Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine and identified a second case of a rare blood clot likely linked to the AstraZeneca shot. The Australian government had been in talks with the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant, which had asked the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration for provisional registration. However, Australian Minister of Health Greg Hunt ruled out a J&J contract, because its vaccine was similar to the AstraZeneca product, which Australia had already contracted for 53.8 million doses. Hunt said the government was following the advice of Australia’s scientific and technical advisory
The Indonesian government has said it is satisfied with the effectiveness of the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine it has been using, after China’s top disease control official said that current vaccines offer low protection against the novel coronavirus. Siti Nadia Tarmizi, a spokesperson for Indonesia’s COVID-19 vaccine program, on Monday said the WHO had found that the Chinese vaccines had met requirements by being more than 50 percent effective. Clinical trials in Indonesia for the vaccine from Chinese drugmaker Sinovac showed that it was 65 percent effective, she said. “It means ... the ability to form antibodies in our bodies is still very
The Oscars are the glitziest night of the year in Hollywood and millions across the globe tune in, but they threaten to be a dud in China after the nomination of a Hong Kong protest documentary. Beijing-born filmmaker Chloe Zhao (趙婷), who is touted to win big for her acclaimed American road movie Nomadland, has also faced criticism back home after some questioned her loyalty to China. China has spent years “pining for Hollywood accolades,” entertainment magazine Variety said, and state broadcaster China Central Television has shown the awards live or on a delay since 2003. Online platforms in China, the world’s fastest-growing
FEARING THE WORST: High-powered weapons, as well as a hand grenade, were used in fighting between two clans over a land ownership dispute that is expected to continue Police are warning an “all-out war” could erupt in Papua New Guinea’s Eastern Highlands Province, after 19 people were killed in tribal violence last week. High-powered weapons, as well as a hand grenade, were used in fighting on Thursday and Friday near a town called Kainantu, resulting in 19 deaths, with many more people unaccounted for and properties destroyed. The fighting, between the Agarabi and Tapo clans, was over a land ownership dispute and broke out just kilometers outside of Kainantu. Police said it is believed that the fighting stopped on Saturday and Sunday as some fighters observed the Sabbath, but they fear