Shanghai’s $44 billion World Expo closes today after China’s richest city hosted a record number of visitors during the six-month event.
A ceremony will be held in the evening along the city’s Huangpu river, with leaders including Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in attendance. The Expo has attracted almost 73 million visitors since it opened to the public on May 1, according to its website, surpassing the 64 million people that attended the 1970 expo in Osaka, Japan.
Authorities in Shanghai campaigned against spitting and littering, expanded the subway system and built two new airport terminals to prepare for the biggest event to be held in the city. The exhibition, with pavilions from about 190 nations from the U.S. to North Korea, may lift Shanghai’s economic growth to more than 8.5 percent this year from 8.2 percent in 2009, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences estimates.
“The Expo was a turning point for Shanghai as the city now moves up the ranks of the world’s metropolises,” said Tu Qiyu, head of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences’s urban research center. “The Expo has been a huge education for Shanghai and many Chinese in modernization.”
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 the airport terminals and a three-year renovation of The Bund waterfront area. Shanghai’s growth last year was at the slowest pace in 18 years.
Shanghai accelerated its expansion of the 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 investment 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.
The attractions included pavilions of cultural and corporate displays, with Denmark shipping across the bronze Little Mermaid statue from Copenhagen’s waterfront and General Electric Co., BP Plc, Coca-Cola Co. and Johnson & Johnson among the sponsors.
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 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. That goal may be hampered by the nation’s restrictions on capital flows and its currency, the yuan or renminbi.
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. Construction on Walt Disney Co.’s theme park in Shanghai will start 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 its economy last year surpassed Hong Kong’s.
Still, an absence of transparent market regulation, the free flow of information and the rule of law means the city is “nowhere near” replacing Hong Kong as a financial center, said James McGregor, a senior counselor in Beijing at public-affairs company APCO Worldwide and author of the book “One Billion Customers.”