A Blue Spring is coming to ShanghaiWritten by Julen Madariaga on March 8th, 2010
Finally, after a long week of intense NPC-CPPCC coverage, the first signs of the spring are starting to bloom in the press of Shanghai. The Oriental Morning Post opens with a picture of the large billboards promoting the EXPO on New York’s Times square, while its archrival, the more conservative Shanghai Morning Post, shows the two Big Bosses of the city speaking to a congress of Haibaos.
The Shanghai Morning Post has the most interesting headlines, both coming from the press conference given yesterday by the Shanghai delegation in the NPC. Both statements are of interest:
1- Politburo member and head of the Communist Party in Shanghai Yu Zhengsheng agrees to review the serial Snail House (蜗居). Inside the paper, Mr Yu actually says that he watches Snail House and recommends all the other cadres to watch it. His only regret is that in the series there seems to be no good Shanghai people. Somehow he forgets to explain why such a great serial has been censored from Chinese TV.
2- The Mayor of Shanghai Han Zheng denies that this is the most expensive Expo ever. He is answering to the rumours that have recently spread on the internet that the total cost of the EXPO is around 400B RMB (60B USD), and he gives the figures of 18 Billion RMB for the construction and 10.6 Billion for the operation. Considering that most of the pavilions are financed by their own countries, the 60B USD (comparable to the whole cost of the 3 gorges dam megaproject) seemed indeed excessive.
The Men in Black give way to Blue
As the month of March progresses, it is forecasted that the men in black will slowly give way to the Haibaos on China’s front pages, and the excitement for the Shanghai EXPO will finally emerge. There are only 54 days left for the EXPO, and even in the heart of Shanghai, the popular enthusiasm is clearly lacking. I heard more talk of the Olympics 540 days ahead than I do of the EXPO today.
As the front pages above show, what discussions exist online and offline about the EXPO are mostly concerned with negative issues, such as the housing problem, the corruption involved and the large sums of money than some believe have been misspent. Add to this that many Shanghai citizens are not all that excited about the arrival of masses of “waidiren”, Chinese from different provinces who will collapse the traffic and make the city unbreathable for five months.
But we shouldn’t let the jaded attitude of some locals spoil the party. I have strong reasons to believe that the EXPO will be a great success, and in the long term it can be as significant or more than the Olympics for China. I will write more about this soon to justify my optimism, and if all goes according to plan, I will be covering Shanghai and EXPO related events regularly in the months to come.