China’s image at the Expo

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I had a chance to visit the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai this week.  It is a grand display, amazing it its scope, and it boggles the mind in its scale.  We were lucky to visit on a recent evening when it was cool and had just rained, thinning the crowds somewhat.

I am sure I am not the only visitor to come away from the 2010 Expo a bit flummoxed by the China Pavilion (pictured).  First, it completely dominates the eastern end of the expo grounds on the Pudong side of the overall site (there is a smaller piece of land with Expo-related pavilions and displays on the west side of the Huangpu River, or Puxi).  The China Pavilion is easily 5 times the size of any other country’s entry, and not only that, but it is surrounded by its “vassals” as if surrounding a throne – Hong Kong, Macau, and yes, Taiwan’s Pavilions are all clustered immediately adjacent to the massive China “throne” and are far, far smaller.

This proximity and size among the pavilions of  “greater China” is further amplified by the location of potential competitors, like say the United States.  I have been told that the U.S. pavilion is at the extreme opposite end of the Pudong Expo site (traveling with a 4-year old, we didn’t make it that far) and I am sure it is much smaller.  Granted, yes, China is the host of the Expo and I’m sure that if the expo was being held in the U.S. that an American pavilion would probably also be the largest and grandest, but this Chinese entry is to me a none-too-subtle message that “China has stood up.”

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