As plenty of people have now pointed out, the real fun at the Shanghai Expo is not in the dull national pavilions on the Pudong side, but in the corporate pavilions in Puxi.
There’s a simple explanation for this. The Pudong pavilions have all been designed by government officials, eager to court favour in China. They don’t have much respect for the average Chinese consumer – the poor people queuing for hours outside are unimportant. The only important people are the businesses and government officials doing the VIP tours.
The Puxi pavilions, on the other hand, have no such agenda. This is a chance for Chinese companies to proudly shape their brands in the eyes of the public. They are absolutely focused on the consumer.
I toured the corporate pavilions earlier this week and can heartily recommend the Broad Airconditioning pavilion, which includes an earthquake simulator that allows people to experience the terror of the Wenchuan quake, and also a six-floor building that Broad constructed in just 24 hours with 100 workers.
It was also interesting to see how Broad is pioneering triple-glazing for windows (let’s hope they roll this out across Shanghai in time for next winter) and greater environmental consciousness.
Meanwhile, at Shanghai Automotive, you can have a glimpse of what the city will look like in 2030. The answer is – more of the same. Higher skyscrapers and more of them. Also, we’ll all be driving around in little automatic pods apparently, which will happily then slot into high-speed trains for intercity travel. When you get home, your pod will sit on your balcony until you need it.
It looks like an interesting solution to traffic jams, although I couldn’t help but think that they had nicked the idea off Minority Report, the Steven Spielberg film. Still, it was a great deal more entertaining than the dullness of the Puxi side.