Though the Shanghai World Expo broke the world record for attendees of World Expos (at 70 million) during its run from May 1 to Oct. 31, the event is another example of the Chinese Communist Party’s need for “Face Projects” that glorify the current regime, despite their social and human consequences, according to a researcher of Chinese history.
Chen Yulin, who works for 57 Association HK, an organization devoted to the collation and study of data and literature on China's Anti-Rightist Campaign (1957), says that Party officials shirk from no expense, nor shy away from violating the civil rights of citizens in the attempt to make themselves look good. The Shanghai expo is one of the biggest cases of this in a long string of examples, he indicated. The Beijing Olympics and the Guangzhou Asian Games are two others.
Chen says that Party officials have never concerned themselves with costs when it comes to fulfilling a quota. This was partly reflected in the composition of attendees, and the means used to get them there.
He spoke in Taipei, Taiwan, at the 2010 International Conference on the Prospects and Exploration of China's Democracy.
China, Not World, Expo
Previously, the 1964 Montreal World Expo had 50 million visitors, 80 percent of whom were not Canadians; the 1970 Osaka World Expo had 64 million visitors, 62 percent of whom were not Japanese. Of the 73 million visitors to the Shanghai Expo, only 10 percent were not Chinese. More than half of the Expo's 239 pavilions were run by Chinese government organizations or industries. “Based on the exhibits and attendees, it should have been called the China Expo,” he says.
The lack of international attendees may be explained partly by the severe overcrowding. Chen said that having 73 million visitors in 184 days meant that on the average day, there were nearly 400,000 visitors. The peak day of attendance was Oct. 16, with 1.03 million visitors. Given an area of 5.28 square kilometers, each person only had 5 square meters of space. At the most popular exhibits, such as the Saudi Arabia Pavilion and Petroleum Pavilion, the average waiting time was 11 hours. Many others also required waiting more than 8 hours. “Foreigners are scared of the China-style long lines,” Chen says. “Many people left disappointed.”
Chen suggests that the primary reason the goal of 70 million attendees was set by Chinese officials was to top the Osaka World Expo's attendance of 64 million.
Gimmicks and Mass Relocations
Other gimmicks were used to reach the 70 million attendance goal, Chen says. For example, each daytime ticket cost 160 yuan, but one daytime ticket can be exchanged for two nighttime tickets. Shanghai residents were each given a gift pack with a ticket and 200 yuan in transportation expenses. The State Council also paid people outside of Shanghai to come to the Expo.
According to Shao Qiwei, director of the National Tourism Administration, the direct tourism revenue from the World Expo exceeded 80 billion yuan ($US12 billion). However, websites in China generally put the expenses of the World Expo at 300 to 400 billion yuan.
The World Expo was located in an urban area. To make room for it, hundreds of thousands of residents were relocated. Before the World Expo opened, many people who tried to petition against their relocation were arrested and others were forced to move. Eight such protesters were sent to labor camps for “reeducation,” for periods from one year to 18 months. Petitioners and other dissidents were refused entrance to the Expo.
After the closing ceremony there were still 15 million unsold tickets, Chen says. If the price was 160 yuan (approximately US$20) per ticket, then 2.4 billion yuan (US$361 million) worth of tickets were wasted.
Read the original Chinese article.