Shanghai Expo 2010 – the shaping of Brand China

Posted on June 23, 2010

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Shanghai-Expo-logoThree main eras have been identified since the first world fair in 1851:
Industrialization (1851–1938)
Cultural exchange (1939–1987)
Nation branding (1988–present)

I want to suggest creating a new era:
Organiser branding (2010 – onwards)

Brand China
China’s most important strategic issues have at their root a shared connection to China’s national image. The second threat is the existing gap between its double digit economic growth and the lack of education of the vast majority of its population and the poverty some still live in.
The world will remember that, in 2010, a World Fair was (successfully of course) organised in Shanghai. The city will have positioned further itself as one of the biggest metropolis in the world. The city infrastructures have moved up the ladder and the country went a step closer to become a world leading nation, not only by its size, its population or the endless business opportunities it offers but for its capacity to pull countries together during 6 months. After the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, “Brand China” is further being built and shaped.
It is a perfect opportunity for China to educates its citizens about the world, what it has to offer, foreign cultures, geography and world’s history. Over 150,000 visitors a day are coming to the Expo. 99.99% of which are Chinese citizens coming from all over the country on organised tours (yellow caps on my right and red caps on my left). It is no more no less a giant educational exercise. We have to realise that for the vast majority of the Chinese people visiting the Expo, art, modern architecture, technology, European history, connectivity etc. are all very remote concepts. What is common to most of the people living in the west is all very new and unknown in this part of the world. China needs to catch-up very fast. It is a race. It would take years or decades to educate the population through the curriculum of formal education. So the government b(r)ought the Expo.
The development of the country (a giant jigsaw) over the past three decades has been enormous and China has changed faster than any nation in history. Economic growth has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, and looking at a future that would have been unimaginable 30 years ago.

The theme of the exposition is “Better City – Better Life” – Shanghai’s new status in the 21st century as the “next great world city”. All is said in a sentence.

So, did world nations really wanted to invest in an event that was actually more an exercise towards China’s self-development and the education of its population? I have not been able to find official figures about inbound foreign visitors but from what I have experienced the number must be marginal.
The Shanghai Expo is a domestic event because it is targeting a domestic audience and country pavilions have been set-up and themed with this factor precisely in mind.

Fabrice Burtin – June 2010

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Posted in: Branding