Ongoing problems with the US pavilion at the Shanghai Expo

10 03 2010

So I know most people in the States haven’t been paying attention to what’s going on with this year’s Worlds Fair (taking place in Shanghai, about two hours away from us), but most of the American (and otherwise) expat community has been taking about it a lot. Basically, the issue is, the American pavilion sucks. Now I know that some of you might not care what happens with the pavilion, and you might consider it a waste of money – by U.S. law, it has to be financed through private donations. But I think, at least for us overseas, the pavilion is largely going to be the face of the United States to most Chinese people, and believe me, there are a lot of them.

For a little background, they still have expos all over the world, and the U.S. still takes part, though our days of gigantic expo pavilions have long since disappeared since the law changed. When Hillary Clinton came over for diplomacy work, though, she was asked about the pavilion and used her power as Secretary of State to put the proverbial boot up the asses of the people in charge of the pavilion. (At one point, the U.S. and Andorra were the only functioning countries not taking part). After a considerable amount of fundraising – something to the tune of $60 billion on her part, the pavilion has finally taken shape, and it’s set to open when the Expo begins in May.

Unfortunately, it’s really boring. And judging from news reports, it’s really bland. Missy and I have taken to calling it The Business Park Expo, because that’s what the pictures suggests it looks like. Meanwhile, pavilion designs for smaller countries like Mexico (here,
Denmark here,
and others have been interesting or fanciful, and at the very least, more creative than the Business Park.

Here is an article about the design process for the pavilion and how it has been mismanaged: Foreign Policy.

And here are some more pictures of other pavilions under construction: Here.

I think it’s safe to say that the U.S. dropped the ball on this one.

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One response

11 03 2010
Bob Jacobson

One point, Jeremiah: the US is not barred from participating in or funding participation in Expos. If you think about it, it’s a ridiculous claim on on its face. Who’s going to bar us, us? The law that’s been bandied about merely says that the State Department can only spend on Expos money appropriated by the Congress for this purpose. Duh. Isn’t that true of every federa agency. Absolutely.

The truth is that neither the Bush nor the Obama Administrations chose to go to Congress and ask for money to fund the US Pavilion. Instead, the plan all along was to sell it off to corporate interests for their own commercial purposes. No doubt some political favors were traded, too. The upshot is that the US Pavilion is 100% corporate and 0% American people. That’s why it’s so dull and undistinguished. The law has nothing to do with it, but it’s been a convenient cover abetted by a slack press and a gullible public.

The article in Foreign Policy discusses this deliberate muddying of the waters to cover for an anti-democratic policy regarding our presence in Shanghai. It’s not “a failed design process.” It’s a failed public-diplomacy policy. Much more profound.

As for your other comments, most thinking people concur.

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