Shanghai sets stage for World Expo spectacular
By Farah Master
SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Shanghai unveils to the world on Friday its multi-billion dollar World Expo, which China hopes will be an opportunity to assert its growing global clout and show off the fruits of its economic transformation.
Shanghai, already China's richest and most glamorous city, has made an unprecedented effort to impress with its Expo, a world fair which has in recent years largely dropped off the world's radar, and to grab some glory from Beijing's Olympics.
The new roads and subway lines which criss-cross the city have been purpose built not only for Shanghai's future growth, but also to transport the 70 million mainly Chinese who will visit during the six-month extravaganza.
China says it has spent $4.2 billion on the Expo -- double what it spent at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It is the most expensive and largest Expo to date, and local media have reported the true cost is closer to $58 billion, including infrastructure.
"This is a very important moment. We have made preparations for years," Hong Hao, Deputy General for the Expo, told Reuters.
Shanghai wants to put the World Expo back on the world stage as the first developing country to host one, encouraging countries large and small to take the Expo seriously and use it as a means to improve fractured foreign ties and increase trade.
China's relations with the outside world have been strained of late, with issues like the value of the yuan currency, a fight over censorship with Google and the trial of four Rio Tinto executives casting a pall over the country's efforts to present itself as a respected international player.
Leaders including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso will be at Friday's opening ceremony. Continued...