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Better City, Better Life?: The 2010 World Expo in Shanghai


For the first time in history, a World Exposition will be held in a developing nation. The World Expo Shanghai 2010 finally gives China an opportunity to show the world what it has to offer. As one of the fastest growing cities in history, Shanghai is the ideal place to host an expo themed “Better City, Better Life—an exploration of the evolution of the city and urban living in the 21st century.” Shanghai is currently home to over 20 million people, and is experiencing growth unprecedented anywhere else in the world.

Since the first World Exposition in London in 1851, expos have become massive hubs for economic, socio-cultural, scientific and technological information exchange. Furthermore, besides the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup, World Expos are considered to be events that have the largest economic impact on a host country. They are unique in the specific ways they benefit the host country, other countries and international organizations that attend.

Already home to over 4,000 skyscrapers–double the amount found in New York City–construction of 1,000 more are set to be complete by the time the Expo begins

The Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the organization responsible for selecting countries to host World Expos, lists several objectives of expos: to reinforce relations between countries worldwide, to share cultural and educational information, to encourage development, to promote environmental consciousness, to encourage renewal of the host city and to promote experimentation in the future. According to Federica Busa, the Director of Communications of the BIE, the site of the exposition becomes a testing ground and a stage—Vancouver residents may recall the rapid, high profile developments on the land used in for Expo ‘86.

On May 1, 2010, along the Huangpu River waterfront in central Shanghai, an estimated 200 different pavilions will open to the public. Each country and international organization in attendance will create its own unique space on the over five square kilometre expo grounds, and put their best foot forward. Pavilion displays will follow a mandated theme; each expo has a different topic based on some aspect of life experiences. As China’s largest city, a major economic and cultural centre, and the eighth largest city in the world, Shanghai’s Expo theme is appropriately titled “Better City, Better Life”.

Promoting Ecologically Friendly Development

As we near 2010, it is predicted that approximately 55% of people worldwide will be living in urban centres, and as such, urbanization and the future of city living is a topic that concerns all nations of the world. What will the modern city look like in the future? As more and more people migrate from rural areas to towns and cities, it’s increasingly crucial to explore new ways of developing urban areas, sustaining them and maintaining quality of life while promoting ecologically friendly development.

Chinese philosophy advocates harmony between people, and the Shanghai Expo sees a ‘City of Harmony’ as the core concept to help promote the theme. “China’s major goal is harmonization, to bridge the gap between country and city life,” says Busa. In order to achieve harmonious relations among people and their environment, the focus has been on sustainable development, now and for future generations.

Experts in urban development were invited to the Forum 2007 of Expo 2010 Shanghai on September 19, 2007 to contribute their advice on “Urban Best Practices,” including preserving history and using technological innovation for the preparations that are being made for the expo in Shanghai.

The Urban Best Practices section is a significant new addition to aid in planning the expo, and Busa says that the BIE will encourage all future host cities to include this important new division in their future expos.

Besides the Olympics and the World Cup, World Expos have the largest economic impact on a host country

With 180 participants already confirmed, various countries and international organizations, such as the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), will be in attendance at the expo. UNIDO’s mission is to encourage sustainable industrial growth to assist in the reduction of poverty in developing countries, and as such, attending the 2010 expo will allow their message to reach a wide range of nations from all over the globe. According to UNIDO, attendance at the expo allows people from different nations to present and exchange ideas on solving problems related to urbanization. Participants can discuss strategies, success stories and what has failed in the past. The 2010 expo will be especially significant, since it is the first World Exposition held in a developing country.

This landmark event will push all other developing countries to strive for more. According to Vicente Gonzalez Loscertales of the BIE, “developing countries are comparatively more enthusiastic and interested in holding a World Expo, which they expect will promote domestic infrastructure construction, enhance their people’s living standards and propel their opening up to the outside world.” For a developing nation, hosting an expo is a fantastic opportunity to present its accomplishments and plans for future development. In this light, “Better City, Better Life” helps Shanghai to demonstrate to other developing countries how it manages increasing rates of urbanization.

The Growth Of Shanghai

Currently, Shanghai is home to 20 million people, and is in the midst of one of the fastest economical expansions ever seen in the world. It has quickly become one of the top business centers in all of Asia. Exhibiting nations at Expo 2010, as well as visitors from around the world, will get a chance to understand how Shanghai has handled its rapid growth and success. This model will help set an example for other developing countries, whose economic progress is picking up, regarding what strategies have worked, as well as pitfalls to avoid.

Since the bid was won in December of 2002, development in Shanghai has been rapidly advancing. The construction of the expo site has resulted in the relocation of thousands of families and hundreds of businesses. Already home to over 4,000 skyscraper buildings—double the amount found in New York City—construction of a thousand more are set to be complete by the time the Expo begins.

World Expositions have become known as the Olympic games of economy, science and technology and a wealth of opportunities are bestowed on their host countries. For the first time in 155 years, this honour has been given to a developing country. Is this a taste of things to come? Will more developing nations be able to show the world what they’re made of? In 2010, China will have its chance to make history, and over 70 million visitors will be there to witness it. Will you?

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