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Monday, 1 November 2010

184 Days of the Shanghai Expo

Sunday saw the closure of the Shanghai World Expo, an event that the People's Daily has hailed as a "magnificent gathering of human civilizations".  Certainly, the figures speak for themselves.  The 6-month run has seen over 70 million people (many of them ordinary Chinese) visit the international showcasing event, with over 200 countries and organisations exhibiting on the site.

Since Shanghai first got the go-ahead to host the 2010 World Expo the subject has been given huge coverage and attention within China.  The face of the infamous Haibao can be seen on pictures, souvenirs and trinkets, symbolic of the desire of the Chinese authorities to ingrain the importance of the Expo in popular imagination.  In much the same way as the Beijing Olympics came to be viewed as representative of China's new role in the 21st century world, the goings on in Shanghai are a continuance of the same theme.  More than usual, this year's Expo was all about image and soft power, with China able to establish itself (temporarily at least) as a focus for international exchange.
The question that needs to be asked now is whether the People's Republic will be able to keep the momentum of the Expo and build on the foundations laid in the three years from 2008.  China's international standing has gone through a rocky patch recently with the trouble over the Diaoyu Islands- a controversy that undid some of the work done since the Olympics by China's image architects.  The Expo has been a good thing for China, but Beijing needs to be ever-careful not to waste the opportunity to carve out a new position in the world community.

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