Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) said yesterday that Shanghai’s World Expo had given the country the confidence to keep pushing for reform, as visitors flooded the exhibition on its final day.
Nearly 73 million people visited displays by 189 countries during the six-month-long culture and technology extravaganza that brought snapshots of the world to ordinary Chinese.
“The success of the expo has strengthened China’s confidence and resolve to pursue reform and opening up,” Wen told a forum at the expo attended by Chinese and international officials on the final day.
“China will unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development and stay open and inclusive. We will learn from the fine achievements of all civilizations,” he said.
Wen singled out several national pavilions for praise as he expressed his admiration for the architectural ingenuity seen at the expo, including the British pavilion, which he compared to a dandelion in the breeze.
The fair has offered an opportunity for China to showcase its growing economic and political clout and has been seen in the country as an event on a par with its hosting of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the final major leader to visit following a long line of foreign dignitaries, said Shanghai had “secured its reputation as one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities.”
“Along the way, it has completed a transformation many years in the making,” he said in a speech at the forum.
Ban said he hoped the world would benefit from the openness at China’s World Expo and that the ideas and technology for improving the environment showcased at the fair would be applied.
“I look forward to working more closely with China on a sustainable development agenda,” he said.
Ban follows Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in visiting the expo.
Fewer than 5 percent of Chinese have opportunities to travel abroad, and the expo — the theme of which was “Better City, Better Life” — allowed them to connect firsthand with the world like never before, organizers said.
The expo was “a huge diplomatic opportunity,” US pavilion president Martin Alintuck said, adding that 7.3 million people had toured the sleek US structure — more than the US embassy and five consulates in China will see in a decade.
“The majority of those folks have never been to the United States. Many of them have never met Americans, so we think this is a tremendous opportunity,” Alintuck said.
Nations brought old and new treasures to woo the Chinese. Copenhagen’s prized Little Mermaid statue moved to Shanghai for the summer, while the Musee d’Orsay in Paris sent seven Impressionist masterpieces. Spain brought its newly won World Cup trophy and a model of the capsule used in this month’s dramatic rescue of 33 miners in Chile went on display.
China built two decades’ worth of infrastructure projects for the event, leaving Shanghai with hundreds of kilometers of new and expanded subway lines, a new airport and several high-speed rail lines. The expo brought about 80 billion yuan (US$11.99 billion) in tourism revenue to Shanghai and nearby areas, Xinhua news agency said.