Friday, May 1, 2009

Invoking the Past to Justify the Future

Today marks the one year countdown to the 2010 Shanghai Expo.

Construction is already underway and yesterday martial arts star Jackie Chan, basketball forward Yao Ming and pianist Lang Lang were named as ambassadors to promote the event. Is there any surprise there except Shanghai hometown hurdler Liu Xiang is absent from the list?

"I will spare no efforts to pay close attention to the Expo and help promote it throughout the world," said Chan at a performance for residents relocated from the Expo site.

"Like every Chinese citizen, I am looking forward to the event, " he said.

Yao was quoted as saying that as a native of Shanghai, he has always hoped that he could contribute to the event.

"I want to tell everyone: welcome to my hometown, Shanghai, and welcome to the 2010 Shanghai World Expo," he said.

The official mascot is the Chinese character for people, ren, in blue, with big eyes on top and of course arms to welcome visitors. His name? Haibao, or "treasure of the sea".

On an afternoon radio show today, there was non-stop chit-chat about the one-year countdown, and even mentioning that a person about 100 years ago had hoped Shanghai would host a world exposition in the future.

That was apparently Liang Qichao, a scholar, journalist, reformer and philospher during the Qing Dynasty.

He along with Kang Youwei tried to form a constitutional monarchy in the dying days of the imperial dynasty, but his proposal of "One Hundred Days of Reform" were considered too radical for the Empress Dowager Cixi.

Liang was exiled to Japan and from there traveled to Canada where he met Dr Sun Yat-Sen, then to Hawaii, and Australia, trying to rally people to support his reformist ideas.

Journalism was also a way for Liang to spread his ideas, believing newspapers were an effective way to disseminate political concepts.

Despite having a classical education, he was determined to shape China in a modern way, even the idea of democracy.

While there there isn't substantial evidence that Liang had envisioned that Shanghai would host a world exposition someday, it's possible he did.

No point in raining on Shanghai's parade, much like the Beijing Olympics, when there had also been a claim that someone had hoped China would host a major international sporting event...

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