We’ve built it…will they come?

April 30, 2010

OBAMA-ASIA/At least she didn’t have to build it herself.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday hailed the successful completion of the U.S. Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo — the whiz-bang coming-out party for the financial heart of an up-and-coming economic superpower.

It was, by all accounts, a U.S. building that almost didn’t get built, and Clinton said she was gratified that U.S. businesses stepped up to fund the $61 million pavilion — a move made necessary by U.S. laws which forbid the spending of public money on such showpieces.

“I vowed last year that I would personally build the pavilion if I had to, so we could be part of that Expo. Thankfully I did not because all of you worked together to make this a great success,” Clinton said at a special meeting in the State Department marking the official opening of the Shanghai extravaganza.

Clinton plans to visit the pavilion next month when she goes to China for a round of high-level meetings, and she said she was thrilled that Expo visitors — estimated at some 70 million people over its six month duration — would get a good picture of the United States.

“We expect that this will be the largest event, some say, in human history … it will certainly be very, very big,” Clinton said. “We’re going to showcase a lot of what is best about America.”

“World fairs and expos have always been the place where the future is previewed and that is indeed what is happening at the Shanghai expo,” Clinton said.

Unfortunately, some previews of the U.S. Pavilion itself have been less than enthused. The Financial Times, in a blog, noted that “the U.S. pavilion is just a series of movie theatres that will show Americans doing schmaltzy things like speaking bad Chinese and living in a paradise of happy social diversity,”  while the Washington Post in its report said the Pavilion boasted “a big room filled with stands promoting the companies that are footing the bill and a fast-food joint.”

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Aly Song (U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at ceremony for U.S. Pavilion in Shanghai in November 2009)

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For another point of view, I suggest your readers check out The Atlantic’s Shanghai correspondent Adam Minter’s latest entry on his Shanghai Scrap blog, How could this happen? A Reporter’s Guide to the USA Pavilion Debacle at Expo 2010,” April 30, 2010. http://shanghaiscrap.com/?p=5017

It’s ironic on the eve of the Expo’s opening to be reciting these facts again after a year and a half of alerts, but a lazy press compounded the problem. The “Blackwatering,” the privatization of US public diplomacy symbolized by the US Pavilion is finally catching the press’ and Congress attention. It’s about time.

Posted by Arturius | Report as abusive