I came back to Shanghai from Hamburg, Germany especially to visit the 2010 World Expo, which I had been eagerly anticipating for a long time.
I first heard about the World Expo in 1953, when I read on a bottle of Maoyai, a famous brand of liquor in China, that "This wine won the big prize at the 1908 Expo." It was the first time that I drank Maotai at Donglaishun Restaurant. Since then, I have always remembered the name "Expo" as a "big event."
After settling down in Europe, I began to learn more about Expos, such as they are held every five years, with the 2000 Expo in Germany and the 2005 Expo in Japan. I began to wonder when China could hold it, although I didn't expect that dream to be realized any time soon given the huge cost of this big event. At the 2000 Hanover Expo, I met an official from Shanghai who told me that he had gone there with a study group that was considering bidding for the 2010 Expo. At that time, I was not certain of this news; however, against my expectations, Shanghai has really done it.
Before the official opening on May 1, the Shanghai World Expo conducted its trial operation from April 20 to 26. I really feel proud of the wisdom, vigor and impulse of the Chinese people, which may exceed many other countries worldwide. In January this year, I went to the construction site of the Expo, which was a mess with hundreds of construction projects under way at the same time, unfinished roads and buildings, and building materials everywhere. But now, Shanghai has an entirely new look: The city traffic is in perfect order, whether on land, on water or underground, leading to the Expo site without congestion.
In Germany, there is no trial operation before the official opening of an event. Once they confirm the exact date of the opening, they won't let anyone enter the venue even one minute before the official start time. However, Chinese culture is different from theirs as we have a tradition of trials—we had trial fields for upgrading wheat; we opened four special economic zones to test the market economy reforms proposed by the late leader Deng Xiaoping; and today, 10 days before the opening of the Shanghai Expo, we ran a series of trial operations to identify any problems that might arise during the event and attempt to modify them instantly. It really was a wise move!
On the first day of the trial operation, almost 200,000 people poured into the Expo site, queuing outside the pavilions. Thus, on the next day, Expo organizers changed the way visitors entered the pavilions, which improved the efficiency of the Expo site.
I have one or two months for my Expo trip in Shanghai, so there is no need to hurry. I made a visiting plan for myself: first, look around Shanghai to see how it has changed and developed; then, visit the Expo site after the official opening, seeing the small and temporary pavilions first, the big and permanent pavilions later. It takes time to fully experience the Shanghai Expo.
Countries have paid special attention to the 2010 Shanghai Expo, using hi-tech and creative means to display their cultural traits and achievements. For instance, the Hamburg Municipal Government started preparing for this Expo three years ago. With all the effort countries have put into it, you may learn more by visiting the Shanghai Expo than traveling around the world.
In my opinion, the purpose of the Expo is to add to visitors' knowledge and enhance their culture. The mass media should put more emphasis on what visitors could learn from this Expo in their follow-up reports; meanwhile, businesses, cities and provinces in China should organize and encourage more people to visit the Expo in order to broaden their horizons and enhance their knowledge.
About the author
Dr. Guan Yu-Chien is a professor, linguist, writer and translator. Born in Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong Province and raised in Shanghai, Guan now resides in Hamburg, Germany. He obtained a master's degree in linguistics in 1972 and a PhD in 1977 from the University of Hamburg, where he still teaches today. He is also a professor at Zhejiang University in China, president of the Association of Chinese Scholars in Europe, and a columnist for the Hong Kong Economic Journal, Singapore's Lianhe Zaobao, and Malaysia's Sin Chew Daily. He has more than 10 publications.