Chapter 15: The Rise of an Empire: EXPO 2010 as a Symbol of the Ambiguity of Chinese Modernisation
Simen Andersen Øyen 1. INTRODUCTION Seldom before has the world seen a modernisation process as intense as China’s and few countries have experienced similar high economic growth rates over an extended period of time. Simultaneously, the United States’ economic dominance is in decline. The country has large economic problems and the wars they are currently engaged in are, for the first time since their Revolutionary War, financed on credit – mainly with loans from China. China has not developed the cultural industries and top universities that the USA has. It also lacks the many non-governmental organisations that generate much of America’s soft power. However, the Chinese path to modernity and economical growth represents a viable alternative to the Western approach. This modernisation carries Chinese characteristics and is more compressed in time and intense than similar development stages in the West. Events such as the World Exhibition in Shanghai 2010 (EXPO) and the Olympics in Beijing 2008 are typical examples of how the Chinese government would like to present itself, but they reveal processes of political contestation and tension, new forms of disciplinarian process, disadvantages related to this development such as corruption, and so on as well. They also indicate a shift from ‘hard’ authoritarianism to a new and ‘softer’ authoritarianism, an element which constitutes some of its appeal to developing countries especially in Africa and South America. In its early stages, the Chinese modernisation process was characterised by an import of Western technology without the cultural and political values that accompany...
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