“I will win!” also expresses China’s pride in showing the world and its people what local papers are calling a new page in the history of humankind’s progress, something China had been waiting for 159 years.
The perfect choreography of the dances, the video and laser display show the level of perfection China has reached. It also shows the mainland showing off its fierce splendour, at a time when the world is suffering, disabled by a world crisis.
However, there is something unconvincing about the whole thing. Somehow, the opening extravaganza was not as grand as the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Both did have one thing in common: the absence of ordinary people. World leaders, including Chinese President Hu Jintao and Vice Premier Wang Qishan, were present, but the average man and woman in the street were just like extras on a movie set.
Indeed, organisers had asked Shanghai residents and people from the rest of China to stay away from the opening ceremony so as not to get in the way of the show. Migrant workers who built the city’s beautiful skyline and the various pavilions that dot the Expo site were forced out of the city because their presence could harm China’s image.
The use of fascinating virtual icons gave an impression that the whole thing was one giant sales pitch for China with the domestic and international audience as potential buyers. Trees were virtual, the fire was virtual, flags were virtual, even the songs praising the unity of humanity and the hugs between Chinese and Tibetan children appeared make-believe, this in a world where trade and ideological tensions between China and the rest of the world are growing and Tibet is still under the thumb of martial law.
It must be said however that this time, unlike the Beijing Games, Tibetan children were “real” and not Chinese children dressed up as Tibetans.
With a theme like “"Better City, Better Life", the environment also played an important rhetorical role in the ceremony, which stressed and showed possible ways for life to be respectful of nature, where man and the cosmos are in harmony.
Both indoor and outdoor segments, especially on the river, glorified clear waters, skies, and plant green. However, as we pointed out, the plants too were make-believe. In fact, China’s waterways and its skies are so dirty that the People’s Republic leads the world in environmental pollution.
Indeed, people in Shanghai are now wondering how the city will dispose of all the garbage generated by a world-class event like Expo once it is over and everything is dismantled or knocked down.
“I will win!” may be a fitting sentiment but it is just make-believe.