Shanghai residents forced from homes to allow for World Expo site construction.
DMTX. Shanghai residents have been forcibly evicted by a collaboration between local government and property developers in order to make way for Expo 2010 fair, due to commence on May 1st. Shanghai, C
Shanghai residents have been forcibly evicted by a collaboration between local government and property developers in order to make way for Expo 2010 fair, due to commence on May 1st. Shanghai, China. 15/02/2010.
With 66 days to go and counting, the World Exposition 2010 is nearly upon Shanghai and it promises to be one of the biggest and most expensive trade fairs to date while generating the largest number of visitors in world trade fair history. The 2010 World Expo has cost China a staggering £35 billion, and the general feeling is that it will catapult Shanghai firmly onto the world stage. The official line is 'it is the occasion for China to bring the world home, and for the world to feel at home in China.' The theme of the exposition will be "Better City - Better Life" and it will signify Shanghai's new status in the 21st Century as a major economic and cultural centre. The Shanghai municipal People's Government have dedicated a 5.28 - square-kilometer area for exhibitions, and event forums. Here in Shanghai bearing witness to the sheer monumental scale of the whole operation is truly an awesome spectacle and the speed at which the city is preparing itself is nothing short of breathtaking.
However beneath the optimism of smiling Haibao (the blue toothpaste like World Expo mascot) there is a more sinister side to the Expo preparations. As the pavilions have been shooting up, great chunks of the old city have been torn down with local residents being ordered to make way. Article 3 in the 'Notice of the Shanghai Municipal People's Government provisions on the Expo' states; 'All units and individual persons within the red lines of the planning of the World Expo site shall subordinate themselves to the need of the construction of the World Expo site, and move on.' This has meant that Shanghai residents that were living on the land dedicated for Expo use have had their property seized and destroyed, sometimes without compensation. Indeed the forcible eviction of Chinese families from an estimated 18,452 Shanghai homes has become one of China's most sensitive issues. It has already sparked a protest march in Beijing and in the past few months at least three people have set themselves on fire in reaction to the unfair confiscation of their property.
While some have objected, most affected local-residents willingly or not, have largely complied with the orders and have moved out. However with the opening date of the expo fast approaching (May 1st) vast areas of the city are still under-construction and look nothing like resembling completion.
Still a common sight is the ever familiar Chinese character of 拆 ( Meaning to break down to tear apart). These are painted on the side of buildings in red, signifying a forthcoming demise. In downtown Shanghai, if you wander not far from the bustling high streets it is easy come across vast area's of rubble and refuse piled high which remain untouched and un-cleared. Former homes stand rotten, empty and gutted and show no sign of restoration or redevelopment. As the expo deadline draws ever nearer it is becoming increasingly obvious that nothing is going to be done with these places as there just isn't time to complete what was originally intended. It's a sad truth that many local Shanghai residents affected by the relocation will have watched their homes and neighbourhoods torn down in vain.
Unfortunately this is the urban planning trend China has been following in recent years. Since 1990 to present, China's urban planning philosophy has been aimed at encouraging economic development of a region for the purpose of global economic participation as a key node in the globalised market. Cities like Shanghai no longer are focused on the socialist model, creating affordable housing to increase the percentage of blue collar workers, but they are characterized by international familiarity and their participation in international events and global affairs. The expo being the perfect example. The shift from 'Socialist City' to 'Global City' has come at a cost to locals with rent ever increasing, foreign business interest driving out local investors and old Shanghai neighbourhoods being levelled to make way for mass redevelopment. According to the Daily Telegraph the past year has seem Shanghai house prices rise by 68% and the rising number of vacancies all over the city are testament to a population that can't afford to live where it was born.
When asked, most local Shanghainese are of the opinion that the World Expo 2010 is of great importance to the city and the indeed China as a whole, however when asked what they will personally gain from it and they will draw a blank. While the massive influx of visitors will certainly stimulate local business in the short term, it's hard to see how most residents will be able to take advantage of their city being under the international spotlight. Tickets to the Expo are available to all but come at the price of 160rmb. While this price is a reasonable expense for the average tourist, it's a pretty costly expenditure for the average citizen. Perhaps the governments promise of free tickets will be forfilled or perhaps not but my feeling is come May 1st when hordes of visitors will flock to the 'better city, better life experience,' local residents, the ones who have really paid the cost, will be largely disassociated from events and and shall remain largely oblivious to it's supposed benefits.