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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Medvedev to Attend Flashy Shanghai Expo

ReutersThe Russian pavilion illuminated at night at the Shanghai World Expo site.
President Dmitry Medvedev will join a gaggle of foreign leaders at the opening Friday of the Shanghai World Expo, the ruling Chinese Communist Party's latest extravagant use of money as it seeks to brandish its power through flashy spectacle.

The Chinese government is spending billions of dollars on the expo — local media estimate some $58 billion if infrastructure is included — to transform an area larger than Monaco into a giant exhibition site.

Determined to make a good impression of its own, Russia for the first time in 30 years constructed a pavilion for the expo instead of renting one from the host country.

Medvedev will join French President Nicolas Sarkozy, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and others at the opening ceremony, which could rival Beijing's 2008 Olympics in terms of scale and cost.

All this for an event that has fallen off the international radar in recent years and typically has been used by less prominent cities and regions, like Spain's Zaragoza and Japan's Aichi, to boost their profile.

But for China's 1.3 billion people, powering an economy likely to soon overtake Japan as the world's second largest, the hoopla and glitz of the expo will be cast as another display of the Communist leadership's power and prestige.

"One goal the Chinese government hopes to accomplish by hosting grand spectacles such as these is to rebrand China as a thoroughly modern and strong country, dispelling any lingering image of it as the 'sick man of Asia,'" said Jeffrey Wasserstrom, professor of history at the University of California, Irvine.

"These spectacles help distract people from other concerns, while also working very much like stimulus packages, as the construction and destruction needed to get them under way keeps many people employed," he said.

Chinese President Hu Jintao, meanwhile, dropped by Russia's pavilion on Thursday, signing the guestbook and praising the theme of the pavilion — children — as important because children are the future.

"Those who visit the pavilion will see the wisdom and intelligence of the Russian people," Hu said, RIA-Novosti reported.

Russia's pavilion is sun-shaped and has 12 white-and-gold towers that symbolize the 12 months, RIA-Novosti said. The pavilion's 6,000 square meters will showcase Russia's recent scientific and economic achievements, the report said.

The 2010 World Expo, titled "Better City — Better Life," will run from May 1 to Oct. 31 and is expected to attract 70 million visitors.

(Reuters, MT)