Expo 2010 Shanghai China: "Populated"

Shanghai, China
June 10, 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

On a Thursday afternoon, the grounds of the Expo 2010 Shanghai China are teeming with visitors.  The waiting time to visit the pavilions is from one to four hours.  I content myself to photographing the exteriors of the pavilions, elevated platforms and walkways.

Many of the pavilion exteriors are creative and inviting.  When I do wait for a reasonable length of time, I must admit that I was mostly disappointed with the exhibits.  I was expecting innovation and a look into the future of city life.  Instead I saw posters, slide shows and shops selling everything from mass-produced trinkets to hand-woven rugs.  Most of the exhibitors were not ambitious in their presentations.  And none of them adhered to the theme of the Expo: “ Better City, Better Life.”

The best parts of the Expo were the “people scenes.”  The cheerful children were cooperative and patient.  The teenagers were well behaved and friendly.   Many adults were assisting older adults.  Everyone was excited and enthusiastic and seemed to be proud that Shanghai and China was staging such a massive and impressive event.  Eventually, everyone takes a break with a picnic or with a deck of playing cards or with a nap.

Late in the afternoon I stopped to chat with one of the very, very few Westerners.  He was from Holland.  I commented to him that I was surprised to see so many people on a Thursday afternoon.  “Doesn’t anyone have to go to work?  Aren’t the children still in school?”  He answered bluntly, “There are a lot of people in China .”

It’s true.  There are a lot of people in China .  Every day, at the Expo the attendance is over 400,000.  95% are Chinese. The Expo runs from May 1 to October 31.  That means that almost 70 million Chinese will attend.  And 70 million represents only about 5% of the total population of China.

At the moment, 1,300,000,000 people live in China.  One Billion, Three Hundred Million!  One thousand and three hundred millions.

In all of Europe, all of Europe, from Iceland to Western Europe to Central Europe to Eastern Europe, from Reykjavik to Vladivostok, there are only 800,000,000.  In all of that land mass, increase the population by 50% and still there would be more people in China.  The population of China is more than four times, four times! the population of the United States. 

By 2015, the population of China will be one billion four hundred million.  That means that China will increase by one third (100,000,000) of the entire population of the USA (300,000,000).

The numbers are just numbers, until you visit.  In every city, the bus stations are jammed with people.  The buses are full. (The station platforms are a bit chaotic, but each ticket has a seat number.)  I rode three different intercity trains.  Each train is sixteen cars long and each car holds more than one hundred people. The trains are full. (And leave exactly on time.)  I took two domestic flights.  The airports are crowded, flights are full and airplanes are parked at all the gates and all around the inner runways.  (Check-in and security are efficient.)

Here’s a number I conjured in my own mind: If only 1% of the population of China is on a summer holiday trip on any one day, then 13,000,000 men, women and children crowd into the transportation hubs, conveyances and sites, every day.  What if I am wrong?  Maybe it’s 1.5% or 2%??!!  I think I’ve met them all.

Back at the Expo, at nighttime, the temperature and humidity drop and bright spotlights illuminate the large pavilions and broad walkways.  I am happy to be here.  The atmosphere is electrifying.  The grounds are colorful and stimulating.  And populated!


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