Images of the China Pavilion are everywhere, but in person, the “Oriental Crown” is an truly an imposing beauty.
The Expo is over! How strange does it feel that this event, which we’ve all been hearing nonstop about over the last two or three years has now finally drawn to an end. With the deconstructing of Expo grounds on the horizon, we’ve got so many questions: How will the Shanghai government justify its public work projects now? Does this mean the “Better City, Better Life” slogan can now be retired? What will happen to all the Haibaos still plastered around the city?
The “lavish display of Chinese national pride” Shanghai showed off for the closing ceremony included performers wearing costumes in the shapes of various pavilions, the singing of world-famous songs in six languages, and Jackie Chan performing with visually impaired children. Currently, it seems that nobody has put up a video of the actual ceremonies (perhaps they’re hoping people will buy the DVD). CNNGo has a pretty decent gallery.
Chances are, like the Olympics, we’ll be watching retrospectives and replays for the next couple months at least. For now though, you can rest assured that the most well attended Expo in history (over 73 million visitors) was an “astounding success” and that its “legacy will live on.”
Also, interestingly enough, Premier Wen Jiabao added that the event was good for reform:
“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 civilisations,” he said.
You can read the rest of Wen’s translated speech here.
No doubt we’ll be seeing opinion pieces on what this all meant from foreign media’s China correspondents soon (and I won’t be surprised if they’re not quite as glowing)… but for now, a preemptive few words about why the Expo mattered to at least somebody, from Adam Minter:
it’s very easy, I think, to stand atop the Expo Boulevard, look down at the six-hour line outside, say, the Saudi Arabian pavilion, and imagine that you’re look at a bunch of lemmings with free tickets. But is that really the best, much less only, explanation? Or is there something else going on down there? Could it be, just possibly, that all of those people are curious to know something about a country capable of spending (reportedly) well over $100 million on a pavilion, and lacking the opportunity to travel there themselves (unlike most Expo critics in the foreign media), are taking the only route available to them? Six hours, in that sense, may not be such a long time. Alternatively, rather than ascribe deep aspirational meaning to those lines, (or lemming-like behavior), it might be better to take a simpler approach: tens of millions of Chinese went to the Expo to enjoy themselves. They did, told their friends and family, and – as the figures show – attendance built.
I’ll add this: The Shanghai Expo experience, what it means to everyone Chinese and foreign, is probably most accurately encapsulated in the USA Pavilion. We made endless fun of it before the Expo opened (and a little after) because, to us, it was cheesy and boring and also kind of shady behind the scenes. But as much as we hated watching an entry video of dozens of people trying to pronounce “huan ying ni (welcome)” and the lame “4d” movie about little girls planting trees and kids coming up with dumb ideas while corporate representatives blabbed on about “innovation,” it wasn’t aimed towards us.
It was for the 98% of Expo visitors: Chinese people who probably won’t make it there anytime soon and who only know the United States as an important trading partner, sometimes antagonist and home of a Black President. What the pavilion showed was that America was full of people who don’t speak Chinese very well (but they try!), people of different colors all working together (which, at least one local has told me, they found “uplifting”) and that the kids over there have the freedom to imagine crazy things (which is good for innovation).
Yes, the line was long. Yes, the days – up until recently – were hot and uncomfortable. And yes, the ability for the Expo to spur business for the countries that built pavilions is questionable. But if, generally, the majority of people who went there left excited (and possibly with more knowledge of a handful of nations that they didn’t have before – like that Obama wasn’t born in Africa), it probably should be deemed a “success.”