USA pavilion at Expo 2010
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As of August 31, 2010, the pavilion reported that attendance had surpassed 4.7 million and was averaging more than 41,000, people per day. On September 30, 2010 the pavilion welcomed its 6 millionth + visitor.
Reception and Reviews
After the Expo opened, the USA Pavilion commissioned a poll that showed the pavilion was well liked by Chinese visitors. A Fudan University research study, paid for by the USA pavilion itself, and posted October 14, 2010 on PRNewswire, found that the USA Pavilion met high visitor expectations and generated positive perceptions of Americans. In the study, 95 percent of respondents felt their visit to the USA Pavilions was worth the "time and effort" and 93.4 percent thought it was a good representation of the "American spirit."
However, a more objective, thorough, and independent study conducted by Duke University business school professor Liu Kang, then acting as dean of the Institute of Arts and Humanities at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, gave "Thumbs down for US pavilion" and deemed it the "most disappointing" at the Expo  (This document has since been removed from the Shanghai Daily archives, possibly under pressure from official sources. A copy of it can be found on Google Docs at https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0BzkHBYsY9tkfNWZlMDlhODYtZTMwZi00OTgwLTg1YTgtMDFjZjA1ZTI0NWVl&hl=en/). Administering the survey to Chinese visitors to the USA Pavilion, Kang found that most respondents were critical of the pavilion aesthetics and its content, voting it the most disappointing foreign national pavilion at the Shanghai Expo. According to Liu, "More than 70 percent of respondents said they got more favorable impressions of countries after visiting their national pavilions, but the United States seemed to be an exception. Maybe people had higher expectations so they left disappointed."
Reactions among US officials were even less enthusiastic. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the most senior US official to visit the pavilion, responded tersely with "It's fine," when asked to express an opinion on the structure and its programs . US Senator Richard Lugar, former chairman of the US Senate's powerful Foreign Relations Committee, and its current ranking member, noted in a February 15, 2011 letter to his Senate colleagues, that the USA pavilion "drew criticism for its hastily organized presentations and lack of a cogent message." [lugar.senate.gov/issues/foreign/diplomacy/ChinaInternet.pdf|] Lugar's letter introduced a report on US public diplomacy efforts in China, of which the USA pavilion was a part. The report claims that the USA pavilion's reliance upon corporate sponsorship "led to heavy criticism for its lack of imagination and heavy corporate branding."
Reviews in the media were decidedly mixed. A Los Angeles Times editorial comments that the mainly Chinese visitors to the pavilion enjoy watching the American Citizens in the pavilion's introductory film as they make fun of themselves as they attempt to learn simple Chinese greetings. The same editorial also notes that "the pavilion is so loaded with corporate logos that the messages are nearly lost to branding by Chevron, General Electric and others."
The official, government-controlled Chinese press reported that this approach by the United States, to focus both the pavilion's show content and message on a spirit of "community," rather than on the country's history or economy, left visitors to the pavilion with a more lasting and memorable impression of "U.S. Spirit."
However, it's to be noted that the official Chinese press consistently praised the US efforts even when others did not. Given the intense efforts of the Chinese to have the US participate in the Expo, the Chinese press' objectivity is problematic.
US media, too, found a very mixed reaction among Chinese visitors. In one Washington article run in The Washington Post, it was suggested that the execution of this message and the pavilion, itself, were a hit among the Expo's mostly Chinese visitors. The same paper's Ezra Klein, however, summed up the pavilion's appeal to China visitors thusly: "We're bad at languages, in hock to corporations, and able to set up gardens when children shame us into doing so."  According to one National Public Radio (NPR, US), reporter: "…corporate sponsors are front and center. Some American visitors find it gauche, but the Chinese seem unperturbed by all the corporate messages." Reporter: "I talked to more than a dozen Chinese visitors. I asked them to resist their urge to be polite and give me a no-holds barred review. No one had a bad word to say. Here's visitor Zhu Shan Bin exiting the pavilion." Bin: "It shows us the American spirit, which is multi-cultural and filled with imagination and creativity. From the movies here, I see Americans value children and a good education." Reporter: "Now that is some brilliant corporate messaging." Yet NPR's Shanghai correspondent, found quite a contrary reaction from mostly underwhelmed visitors, including this gentleman surnamed Huang: "There isn't enough to see. There's no advanced technology, even though the U.S. is such an advanced country. There are only films. We can see those at the cinema."
Pavilion exit interviews by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS, US) program "News Hour" found the audience pleased by what they saw, and commenting that it showed them another side of America, which was well worth the long lines endured to enter the pavilion. In a typical response, one woman interviewed by PBS "News Hour" makes the comment: "My View of America Changed…from what I saw, America seemed more sincere and friendly. …Right now, America and China, they are good friends."
Four core concepts underlay the pavilion's program content: teamwork, sustainability, health, and the spirit of striving for success.
Within the US Pavilion there were four performance spaces which are used for multimedia and live shows, and experienced sequentially. Each holds 500 guests: a welcome hall, a pre-show, a main show, and a post show display area. In the first hall, visitors were greeted in mandarin Chinese in a film that included a cross-section of the United States' multi-cultural residents. The second show-space presented a pre-show film which conveys the "Spirit of America", its urging to promote collaboration and celebration of opportunity, diversity, freedom, and innovation. The third show-space was the main-show, entitled "The Garden." It presented the story of a 10-year-old girl who envisions turning a blighted vacant city lot in her neighborhood into a beautiful, urban pocket park. The young girl enticed her neighbors to come together to make the park a reality. In the process, she also created a closer community of neighbors. The dialogue-free film, was projected upon five (5) 10-meter-high screens trimmed by programmable LED lighting effects (833 lighting cues in eight minutes), and incorporated in-theater effects such as lighting, mist, and vibrating seats, intended to help the audience feel more involved in the experience. In the post-show area, the pavilion's corporate sponsors displayed their emerging technologies and products. The displays were arranged as the themes: technology, sustainability, US tourism, lifestyle, health, and nutrition.
Foreign Policy describes Secretary Clinton's diplomatic team, when it visited the pavilion on May 24, 2010, as taken aback by its overwhelming commercialism.
A non-verbal approach to the film, and the theater's light and special effects technologies, were intended to make the message understood by all, with no language barrier to understanding the information it intends to convey. However, as discussed below, many took away a different message: that the USA is dominated by corporate interests—a conclusion that some visitors, especially Americans, felt was appropriate; and also that Chinese people are simpletons.
As described in a top story in the on-line news source "Beijing Review," the film: "With its 4-D wind and rain effects, gives audiences an amazing visual and tactile experience. Although there was no dialogue in the film, the excellent visual and audio effects make the film accessible to audiences with different cultural and language backgrounds." 
The show aspects of the US Pavilion were conceived and produced by Bob Rogers (designer) Burbank, California based firm, BRC Imagination Arts, which has produced attractions and content for 11 world's fair presentations, including the film for the Vancouver Expo, "Rainbow War", which was nominated for an Academy Award ("Oscar").
The show received mixed reviews. Many reviewers found it superficial and overly commercial, since it was interrupted by continuous advertising by corporations investing in the pavilion; even the themes were "explained" by corporate CEOs."USA World Expo Pavilion Reveals More Than Organizers Intended". LivingRadically.com. May 21, 2010.</ref> and "The USA Pavilion is a Disgrace". PopSci.com. May 6, 2010.</ref>
Also, the cost of the presentation remains at issue. In its application to the US Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status, Shanghai Expo 2010, Inc., the private owner and operator of the USA Pavilion, indicated it had plans to pay $23 million for these 15 minutes of film—about $1.5 million per minute of entertainment, more per minute than many Oscar winning feature films, and one third of the pavilion's budget! When this information was disclosed, pavilion co-founder Nicholas Winslow resigned his post as CEO, allegedly due to a conflict of interest involving his former occasional employer, BRC Imagination Arts. Shanghai Expo 2010, Inc., the private owner and operator of the pavilion, refuses to open its books to the public.
In addition to the theater shows, entertainment was provided at the US Pavilion on an ongoing basis with live performances by various US artists. The opening weeks of Expo 2010 included the Philadelphia Orchestra, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Herbie Hancock.
Many bloggers and newspapers have highlighted and praised the role of the pavilion's "Student Ambassadors." These students were chosen through a national competition organized by the U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California]. These university students all speak Chinese, have distinguished academic records, and are responsible for introducing exhibits, talking to visitors as they wait to enter the pavilion, working with visiting dignitaries and delegations, and going outside the Expo for various community projects (e.g., a Habitat for Humanity effort). Several of these student ambassadors have appeared on Chinese television and have been interviewed by newspapers about their experience working at the Expo and living in the Expo Village.
A serious conflict between the student ambassadors and the pavilion management came to light late in 2010, after the Expo had closed. According to the student ambassadors who posted the original manifesto on the blog Chengdu Living.com -- "Greed and Corruption: the USA Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo" -- and the many who subsequently commented, student ambassadors were overworked, underpaid, not well resourced, and apparently forced to witness or asked to participate in unethical or illegal practices. No response from Shanghai Expo 2010, Inc., the pavilion's private owner and operator, has been forthcoming.
The US Pavilion, with its theme of "Rising to the Challenge", was a gray steel structure designed to resemble an eagle with its wings outstretched to welcome pavilion visitors. The 60,000-square-foot (5574 sq. meter) United States Pavilion, constructed largely from glass and steel, was designed by Canadian architect Clive Grout. The exterior of the pavilion has not been without its critics, however. In May 2010, one on-line article criticized the exterior of the structure as unimaginative and resembling an ordinary office building. This simplicity in design was likely to have been the intent of the facility designer, as months before any reviews of the exterior began to surface, Grout expressed the design intent of this building was precisely to deemphasize the United States' physical presence at the fair. In a February 2010 article in Fast Company magazine, Grout exclaims: "We have not felt the need to do an architectural handstand to get attention."
It has been widely reported in the press that American laws prohibit or limit the spending of public money for participating in world's fairs. However, in an article posted on the internet blog, "The Huffington Post", Innovation Management Consultant and Customer Experience Designer, Bob Jacobson, makes the claim that this was a State Department fabrication, part of the Bush Administration's policy decision to privatize the US Pavilion. In his commentary on the internet blog, "Foreign Policy", Jacobson further explains that a 2006-2007 RFP process was eventually aborted, and the US pavilion project was eventually outsourced, in March 2008. With initial difficulty finding support in Shanghai and the US, in October 2008 the team reportedly received some undisclosed form of support from the US Consulate.   With the Obama administration replacing the Bush administration in the fall of 2008 election, a newly appointed Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton's first overseas trip was to East Asia. Clinton soon began efforts to raise the funds necessary to make the USA Pavilion a reality. Clinton's personal intervention and her fund-raising network, in fact, are widely credited with helping the U.S. avoid the embarrassment of being a no-show at the largest world expo ever. A key factor in her efforts to support the United States participation in the 2010 Expo was Clinton's recruitment of Jose H. Villarreal, a lawyer and Democratic Party fundraiser from San Antonio, Texas, to finish the job of raising the US $61 million needed to construct and staff the US Pavilion.
The US Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo is noted as the only national pavilion at the Expo—and the only US Pavilion in recent history—solely funded by the financial contributions of approximately 60 multinational corporations. Sponsors—called "Marketing Partners" by Shanghai Expo 2010, Inc., the pavilion producers—include: Yum!, PepsiCo, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Boeing, Procter & Gamble, The Walt Disney Company, General Electric, 3M and Wal-Mart. A contribution of US $ 5 million from Citigroup completed the year-long campaign among corporations to reach the project's adjusted US $61 million funding goal, although additional corporate contributions (including from the American branch of Haier, China's largest household appliance manufacturer) continued to be raised. According to one reporter, the presentations and post show exhibits, their design, projection systems, sound systems, show sets, finishes, installation, training, etc. cost us $23 million, or about $2.3 million per minute of entertainment.
In addition to dominating the formal US Pavilion, corporate America was present in several other venues. For example, the food-court building adjacent to the USA Pavilion was owned by the giant fast-food conglomerate Yum Brands, a USA Pavilion "marketing partner" (sponsor). It housed a Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken, and several US corporations had their own stand-alone pavilions in other areas of the Expo. A marketing document widely circulated by Shanghai Expo 2010, Inc., available online, promised that "The USA Pavilion organizers will work closely with our Pavilion sponsors to incorporate their visions of the American city of 2030 into the Pavilion story" i.e., into the Pavilion's central film feature.
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