Zhou Hanmin – Leading the largest world expo ever

As deputy director of the Expo 2010 Shanghai China executive committee, Zhou Hanmin is full of optimism. He believes the exposition will not only serve as a bridge between China and the rest of the world, but will also create strong confidence in the future.

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Age: 52
Lives: Shanghai, in the Pudong area. “I served as deputy- governor in the area nine years ago.”
Family: Wife, a dermatologist, and a daughter, 11
Interests: Reading, writing poetry, listening to music, participating in an active social life
Favourite film: To Live, directed by Zhang Yimou, the chief conductor of the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. “He is a very good friend and someone I respect.”
Favourite books: Books by Victor Hugo. “They have taught me a lot,” Zhou says.

As deputy director of the Expo 2010 Shanghai China executive committee, Zhou Hanmin is full of optimism. He believes the exposition will not only serve as a bridge between China and the rest of the world, but will also create strong confidence in the future.

When the general assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) voted in December 2002 for Shanghai to organize and host the World Expo in 2010, it was a big win for China.

This was only 15 months after the International Olympic Committee had named Beijing the host city for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. To be chosen to organize and carry out two such global mega-events was not only a sign of China’s rising importance, but also a unique opportunity for the country to come closer to the rest of the world.

One person who was especially happy was Zhou Hanmin, who had served as China’s delegate to the BIE. Today, some eight years later and with just a few months left before the opening of the exposition, Zhou serves as deputy director of the executive committee for Expo 2010. He is proud of what has been achieved so far in the preparations for this grand event, which will be by far the largest ever world expo in the 159-year history of international fairs and expositions, both in number of participating countries and organizations and the expected number of visitors.

“The 2010 world expo is a very strong driving force for the modernization and industrialization of China,” says Zhou. “Even if China in 2008 surpassed Germany to become the world’s third largest economy and is on its way to replace Japan as the second largest economy after the US, we are still a developing country if you count gross domestic product per capita.”

China is famous for its ancient achievements in science and technology. Zhou hopes that the exposition will help the country regain its creative power in these fields and serve as a bridge between China and the rest of the world.



Expo 2010, which openson 1 May, is rapidly coming to life. “If you had come here eight years ago, you would have found this area packed with hundreds of factories,” says Zhou as he stands on the rooftop of the world expo headquarters, overlooking the exposition site on each side of the Huangpu River, between the Lupu and Nanpu bridges in downtown Shanghai.

“There were heavy industries, including a large shipyard, iron and steel mills,” he says. “Some 18,000 family households lived in this area, which was heavily polluted, and they did not have a regular supply of clean water.

“Now, all of these people have been moved to newly established ‘expo’ towns,” he says. “They are in fact the first people to really appreciate the theme of Expo 2010: ‘Better City, Better Life’.”

The entire expo site is being constructed with the environment in mind, Zhou explains. One-third of the area will be green, and this will remain after the expo closes on 31 October 2010. In addition, energy savings and reductions of carbon dioxide emissions have been considered in the construction of pavilions and other buildings.

“We are the hosts, and in accordance with Chinese traditions, hosts should do the utmost for their guests,” says Zhou.


Expo 2010has garnered considerable interest from the international community: 228 countries and international organizations are scheduled to take part, reflecting Shanghai’s status as a major global economic and cultural centre.

“I predict that more than 150 heads of state will come to Shanghai for the exposition,” says Zhou. “That means almost one per day during the 184 days that the expo will last.”


As with many of thenew generation of Chinese leaders, Zhou has a broad portfolio of assignments. Besides managing Expo 2010, Zhou is a working vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a highly ranked political advisory body. He is also vice-chairman of the China Democratic National Construction Association, one of the eight legally recognized political parties in the People’s Republic of China, and is director-general of the China Recreational Association, which is handling training and education and has a key role for the modernization of China.

“I have four different offices, but only one salary,” Zhou says, laughing. He estimates that he spends more than 60 percent of his time on the exposition.

The preparation work has gone through a number of phases, and Zhou has had his hand in each. First, a detailed registration document, China’s legal commitment, had to be worked out. Zhou, who has a background as a law professor specializing in international trade law and international business law, was the chief editor of that document.

When that was finalized, Zhou had to get construction of the site under way and work on convincing countries and organizations to participate.

“I recently went to Geneva to lobby for the World Trade Organization [WTO] to join the expo,” Zhou says. “I am very happy now to hear that they will participate.” Zhou played a central role in preparing for China’s accession to the WTO in 2001.

Expo 2010will be heldat a time when the world is going through a serious economic recession, and Zhou sees the exposition as an important part of the recovery process. “It’s not merely the job opportunities we provide or the infrastructure we construct,” he says. “The expo is a symbol of trust and confidence in the future.”



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