Adam Minter is an American writer in Shanghai, China, where he covers a range of topics, including the Chinese environment, religion in contemporary China, trade, sports, and cross-cultural issues between the West and Asia. Minter’s work has been published in The Atlantic, Slate, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Foreign Policy, The National Interest, Mother Jones, Scientific American, ARTnews, and other publications. He blogs at Shanghai Scrap. Today, he shares five Expo-related reasons he’s looking forward to 2010 (in no particular order/ardor).
1. The Demise of the Hongqiao Airport Taxi Line. The days of arriving at Hongqiao Airport, post-midnight, only to find a taxi line that lasts for nearly as long as the flight you just completed – well, those nights are nearly over. Ninety-five percent of the visitors to Expo will come from China, and the city fathers are determined to make a good impression on them, too – starting with a revamped taxi line. That massive Hongqiao Transportation Hub that’s been under construction for a while? Reportedly, it includes a solution.
2. International Performing Arts Nirvana. For years, I’ve listened to ennui-infused expat hipsters complain about the lack of Shanghai appearances from international performing artists. Well, that’s about to change – at least, for six months. All of those expensive pavilions on the Huangpu riverbanks? They come with large programming budgets sometimes nearly equal to their construction costs, and those budgets are going to pay for visits from Japanese butoh groups, to Canadian pop stars, to Israeli klezmer bands (none of whom will be restrained by visa-related issues). By mid-summer, I guarantee it, Shanghai’s too-hip-for-Expo crowd will be complaining about the cost of heading to the grounds several times per week.
3. The Depths of the US Pavilion Will Be Revealed, at Last. For US citizens, at least, the biggest story surrounding the Expo has been the incompetent, under-funded US effort to build an outlet-mall like pavilion. The reasons for this underwhelming effort are still murky, in large part because the US State Department and the private group authorized to design, build, and fundraise the pavilion have refused to release documents outlining how the pavilion was awarded, the rules under which it raises money, just who precisely has donated to it, and in what amounts. In the absence of information, rumors are rife that the pavilion was awarded on the basis of nepotism between a high-level US Commerce employee and his lawyer wife. Fortunately, somebody filed a Freedom of Information Act request for access to all documents related to the whole nasty business, and it should be fulfilled at some point during the Expo.
4. The Ultimate International Food Court. The other day, while touring the Expo grounds, I paused beside the future Caribbean Community Pavilion. In a few months, it’ll be home to all of the Caribbean nations unable or unwilling to pay for individual, stand-alone pavilions. That seemed a pity to me, but one of my companions – a designer working with a country famed for a culinary export – set me straight. “You know what I call it?” He asked. “Food court.” Indeed. Architecture and performing arts aside, Expo promises to be a culinary bonanza of the first order, promising restaurants run and supervised by national authorities who have a patriotic stake in making sure that when you order Caribbean jerk chicken, you get Caribbean jerk chicken.
5. The Breakdown. Here’s an irony: Expo 2010 is being promoted as a sustainable, despite the fact that nearly every one of the multimillion dollar/euro/yuan pavilions will be demolished after the six-month event. Blame it on the BIE, the Paris-based organization that authorizes the event, and Shanghai’s voracious real estate developers, who can’t wait to get their hands on hundreds of acres of undeveloped riverbank land. In any event, in less than a year the world’s biggest Expo will be transformed into the world’s largest demolition, and I for one can’t wait to watch as Shanghai’s guerilla army of recyclers descend upon the site. A scene for the ages, I promise.