World Expo Exposed, in Words of Chinese Novelist
Absent are halls filled with advanced technologies of previous World Fairs. Instead, scalpers, long lines, empty buildings, and videos are waiting for you at the World Expo in
Recently a Shanghai Taxi driver said to me, “You will regret it if you don't visit the World Expo; but you will regret even more if you do.” So I decided to go and find out why.
I went with Wang, a friend, and his girlfriend around noontime on Sept. 4. Wang is a media worker and got free tickets. He offered me one, but I insisted on buying my own. I paid 160 yuan (US$24), quite a fortune in
Then a ticket scalper, the third one for the day, asked if we wanted to buy “reserved tickets.” I was not surprised because my Chinese wisdom has taught me that whenever there's anything inconvenient or unfair going on, someone willing to violate the law will surely come along to offer help—all you need to do is pay the money.
After chatting with him for 20 minutes, the young man offered to give us a guided tour. He recommended we see some small exhibition halls. He also made a call to someone to let us get into two major exhibit halls without waiting in line. He also gave me several reserved tickets for the
Wang asked me how much I had paid the guide. I told him I didn't pay him anything. The young man turned out to be very nice. After he and I talked, he decided to show us how the World Expo in
World Expo Secrets
To start with, our guide explained the authenticity and origin of some of the exhibition halls' content. For example, the “authentic” hand crafted items in the Africa hall were actually bought from the
Our guide said he had graduated from a university in southern
Another way for staff to make money is by selling reserved tickets. The guide said he normally gets reserved tickets from the security staff at the entrance gate. He then sells the tickets after work and shares the profit with the staff. He said he did not want to sell the tickets in the beginning, but he would have stood out “like a sore thumb” if he hadn't.
He also said that orders had been issued from higher-up that nobody is to die on Expo grounds—they should prevent it at all cost. He said that one time a tourist tried to jump from the second floor of the Korean hall because he felt he had been mistreated. Fortunately, security staff grabbed him in time. But the risk [of dying at the Expo] is still high because when the heat wave hit in August, an average of 300 tourists had heat strokes while waiting in line.
Nothing Worth Seeing
Our guide thought this expo was a rip-off, not because of smalltime scalpers like himself, but because of the organizers, who he says are the real scalpers. They do all the marketing to get people there, but cannot provide matching services. They sell overpriced tickets in every possible ways, while giving away free tickets to boost sales volume, he said.
He said that the Expo is already overcrowded, yet authorities are still using every propaganda channel to get more people to visit. He also said those major halls have nothing worth seeing except for some videos. During training he noticed that all the past World Expos in other countries were showcases of advanced technologies and ideas, but this expo has nothing but architecture and videos. He could not understand why it would be regarded to be so important for so many people to come visit.
After walking and looking around for four hours, I had to agree with our guide: this World Expo in
And yet the entire state-run media apparatus has been involved in an all-out marketing campaign promoting the Expo, turning it into a gigantic deal about the country's image. I think the World Expo in
The World Expo is a place where the world meets
By now the Expo has obviously reached its visitor capacity, yet many free tickets are still being given away, group tours paid by employers are being organized, and free commercials continue on state-run TV. In
If I were an out-of-town visitor who already bought a ticket to the Expo, seeing the long lines, I would feel I had no choice but paying someone to skip the waiting lines; I might even consider renting a wheelchair.
Yang Hengjun is a commentator and novelist. This article was originally published on his blog ：《杨恒均：世博亲历》