Shanghai’s World Expo transformed the city with a $44 billion makeover of roads, subway lines and its riverside Bund and was celebrated with traditional songs and dance when it closed late yesterday.
The six-month event attracted 73.1 million visitors, topping the record of 64 million set in Osaka, Japan, in 1970.
Campaigns against spitting, littering and wearing pajamas in public burnished Shanghai’s image, as the 2008 Summer Olympics helped boost Beijing. The exhibition, with pavilions from about 200 nations from the U.S. to North Korea, may lift growth in China’s richest city to more than 8.5 percent this year, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences estimates.
“The Expo has helped Shanghai become a world-class city,” said James McGregor, a senior counselor in Beijing at public-affairs company APCO Worldwide and author of the book “One Billion Customers.” “People are in Gucci shoes and designer jeans, they’re not in pajamas anymore.”
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao declared the closure of the Expo at a ceremony with music and traditional dances performed by more than 4,000 people including martial artist Jackie Chan. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne were among those who visited the Expo.
“The Expo has brought together the Chinese people wishing to learn more about the world and foreign friends wishing to know more about China,” Wen said yesterday. The exposition was a “severe test” to China and Shanghai as it was held under the shadow of the global financial crisis, he said.
After winning hosting rights in 2002, Shanghai allotted 28.6 billion yuan ($4.3 billion) for construction and operating costs and 270 billion yuan for infrastructure, including two airport terminals and a three-year renovation of The Bund. Last year, Shanghai’s economy grew 8.2 percent, the slowest pace in 18 years.
Shanghai accelerated the expansion of its subway system to more than 400 kilometers to meet demand from the influx of visitors during the Expo, making it the biggest city transport underground network in China.
“The Expo provided a short-term boost for the local retail and hospitality sectors,” said Jing Ulrich, chairwoman for China equities and commodities at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Hong Kong. “The long-term benefits will be realized through the significant investments in infrastructure, which have opened up whole new districts and markets in and around Shanghai.”
The event may have generated tourism spending of more than 80 billion yuan for Shanghai and neighboring cities along the Yangtze River, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported on Oct. 26, citing the China Tourism Academy.
Main attractions included pavilions of cultural and corporate displays, with Denmark shipping across the bronze Little Mermaid statue and General Electric Co., BP Plc, Coca-Cola Co. and Johnson & Johnson among the sponsors. Visitors waited for as long as nine hours to enter some of the most popular pavilions, such as the 1.1 billion-yuan Saudi Arabia one, the most expensive among them and was equipped with the world’s largest IMAX cinema.
The Expo raised the city’s profile and highlighted the “hardware” of world-class offices and five-star hotels that will help to attract foreign businesses, said Victoria Mio, a regular visitor to the city who is a Hong Kong-based senior fund manager at Robeco Group, which oversees about $186 billion.
As part of sprucing up the city, the government asked residents to drop a local habit of walking on the streets in pajamas. The event offered an opportunity for people to “correct this bad habits,” Vice Mayor Yang Xiong said in January.
The Expo was part of an investment campaign in the city of 19.2 million people that China aims to develop into a global financial center by 2020.
A 29.3 billion-yuan high-speed rail line connecting Shanghai and Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang province, started operating on Oct. 26, while The Bund, Shanghai’s colonial-era waterfront strip, will be further developed as a center for financial companies. Walt Disney Co.’s theme park in Shanghai will start construction in November, the Shanghai Securities News reported on Oct. 18.
Shanghai overtook Singapore as the world’s busiest container port in August, operates China’s biggest stock exchange by market capitalization and last year surpassed Hong Kong in economic size. The city’s goal of becoming a top financial center is made more difficult by the nation’s restrictions on capital flows and its currency, the yuan or renminbi.
Still, an absence of transparent market regulation, a free flow of information and the rule of law means the city is “nowhere near” replacing Hong Kong as a financial center, according to APCO’s McGregor.