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Shanghai Expo: A Corner Turned

2009. 31 May

( Readers may have noted the most recent bit of positive news regarding the US Pavilion for the Shanghai Expo: the adding of Yum Brands as a sponsor (here’s one report from AP via LA Times:,0,1208894.story

But the fact is, something much more profound has taken place. Secretary Clinton and her senior staff are now actively engaged in support of the fundraising efforts by the State Department approved group that is working feverishly to get the Pavilion built. I know this for a fact from a conversation with a business colleague (not affiliated with the US Pavilion organizers) who was on a phone call that Secretary Clinton held on this topic recently with a group of US business leaders. On the call Secretary Clinton made clear, in her friendly but firm way, that this is an important effort that deserves private sector support.

The non-profit group leading the fundraising effort has had to deal with an unprecedented set of challenges, including:

  • The 2008 Olympics, which sapped attention and funding from the US Pavilion for the Expo
  • The worst economic downturn in two generations
  • Lost momentum from a major change in US administrations
  • A recalcitrant group of mid-level State Department officials who repeatedly sought to block reasonable Department support for fundraising.
  • An alternative non-profit group that kept up a continuous stream of (unfair) criticism of the officially-approved group’s efforts.

The intensity of Secretary Clinton’s involvement means the bureaucratic obstacles have been overcome. This is a huge step forward and one that will be decisive I hope. However, we are not out of the woods yet. We all know that this big push from the USG is coming late in the day.

When you think about it, this entire episode is sort of a typical American tale, with a small group of smart and persistent Americans, working for no pay, fighting huge odds to complete a project of clear national interest. I hope it has a happy ending.

For any friends in the business community who come upon this post: Now is the time to pull out the stops in support of the US Pavilion. In addition to the direct marketing benefits of your participation, each of your companies benefits from good US-China relations and a positive perception of America in China. Further, I believe the Shanghai city and Chinese Central governments attach huge importance to securing the US Pavilion and will take note of the companies that step up to the plate in support. Times are tough, but this is clearly a worthwhile investment.

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