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World's fair in Shanghai provides China with another showcase opportunity

By Andrew Higgins
Saturday, May 1, 2010; A07

SHANGHAI -- With a frenzy of fireworks over a metropolis that once symbolized subjugation by the West, China on Friday launched its first world's fair, a jamboree of 189 nations that Communist Party leaders hope will showcase their country as a potent but peaceful world power.

As the Chinese character for peace flashed on a giant screen and Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" boomed from loudspeakers, a flotilla of boats carried the flags of the participating nations down the Huangpu River, a waterway that in the colonial era brought foreign invaders and traders, Western ways and great wealth to China's most cosmopolitan city.

After eight years of preparation, more than $50 billion in state funds and the biggest security operation in China since the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, President Hu Jintao declared Expo 2010 Shanghai open at a ceremony held in a riverfront hall shaped like a flying saucer.

The ceremony, a mix of Sino-Western schmaltz and stiff Chinese ritual, featured the Chinese national anthem, a song by Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan, a rendition of Puccini's "Nessun Dorma" by Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and mass dance routines.

Police closed streets in wide swaths of the city ahead of the event, which was attended by numerous foreign dignitaries, including North Korea's No. 2 and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The United States did not send a high-level representative.

Tens of thousands of Shanghai residents watched the fireworks show Friday evening. "In the past, foreigners looked down on Chinese," said Jiang Xian, a retired petrochemical worker. "I am now very proud and excited."

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