Wednesday, April 15, 2009

2010 Shanghai World Expo (World's Fair)

The upcoming World's Fair should offer the chance to build a showpiece U.S. pavilion. But thanks to behind-the-scenes maneuverings and State Department incompetence, we may end up with a Chinese-funded pavilion—or no pavilion at all.

Shanghai Expo 2010, Inc.'s proposed design

“National pavilions are supposed to represent who we are as a nation and a culture,” explains Barry Howard, a California designer who has been involved with Expos and pavilions for over four decades. “They tell a story of whom we’ve become and who we’ll be.” So far, the story of the U.S. pavilion for the 2010 World Expo has not been flattering for the United States. And on April 15—the deadline day for the U.S. to sign an Expo participation agreement—it may become an outright embarrassment.

If Expo 2010 were being held anywhere else – say, Amsterdam – there wouldn’t be any pressing need for a U.S presence. But just as the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair (better known as the World Columbian Exposition) signaled the ascendance of the U.S. as a major industrial power, and the 1964 New York World’s Fair suggested U.S. technological superiority, 2010 seems primed to represent the rise of Chinese economic and political power in the 21st century.

Reserved land for the US Pavilion...

A no-show by the U.S. would convey as much about America’s diminished place in this new geopolitical order as does its ongoing run-up of Chinese-owned debt. The Chinese government, meanwhile, has indicated that a no-show might be taken as a snub. Though few Americans are paying attention now, come May 1, 2010, when the expo opens, surely many would wonder why the U.S. is not represented among the gleaming, architecturally significant pavilions on the Shanghai riverbanks.

Click here to access Adam Miller's article in its entirety from The Altantic