China opened the 2010 World Exposition in Shanghai on Saturday [5/1/10] with a lavish show and hundreds of thousands of visitors. Organizers expect some 70 million people to tour the exhibits, mostly Chinese visitors, during the six-month-long event.
China celebrated the opening of the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai with an evening of fireworks and fanfare. Dubbed the "Economic Olympics," by Chinese officials, some 190 nations and 50 international organizations are participating in the multi-billion dollar event.
Similar to how 2008 Beijing Olympic Games put the Chinese capital in the international spotlight, Shanghai's hosting of the World Expo has given the city of 20 some million people and China a chance to showcase its emergence as a global economic power.
Wu Jianzhong is an adviser to the World Expo. "Shanghai's hosting of the World Expo is not just about showcasing China's national power and image. More important than that, it is a chance for China to step up its interaction with the rest of the world," he said.
Many Shanghai residents, like this middle school student, agree. "I think that the World Expo is a great stage because it allows countries from around the globe to showcase their achievements and to interact with other countries," they said.
The 2010 World Expo includes more than 200 pavilions and exhibition sites. Many countries have gone to great lengths, spending huge sums
to boost their image in China. The Chinese government says it has spent more than $4 billion on the World Expo -- double what it spent on the Beijing Olympics.
Although interest in the World Expo has declined recently, many countries have made an extra effort to participate this year because China is the host.
The Belgium-European Union has a joint pavilion at the Expo. Jose Manuel Barroso, E.U. Commission President, said "It is the first time for the European Union to take part in a World Expo outside Union's territory. I took this decision because of the importance I attach to the strategic partnership between the European Union and China."
Several countries that normally are not known for their booming economies, but have good relations with China, are also participating -- including Iran, Zimbabwe, Burma and North Korea.
North Korea, whose economy is in tatters and is facing tough international sanctions is participating in the World Expo for the very first time.
More than 400,000 visitors had come to see the Expo's pavilions. Long lines stretch around the popular exhibits, with visitors forced to wait several hours to get a glimpse inside.
The first World Exposition or World's Fair was held in London in 1851. The event, or "Great Exhibition" as it was called, was the first to showcase manufactured products.
The theme for the Shanghai World Expo is "Better City, Better Life" and features major exhibitions that look at modern and future urban life, and consider issues such as sustainable development and the interaction between cities and the environment.
The Shanghai 2010 World Expo runs until the end of October.