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Han Han: Answering Questions About Shanghai World Expo

Han Han wearing race suit and glasses.

Han Han is a famous post-80s generation race-car driver, best-selling author, and Chinese blogger who was also recently named in Time magazine’s Top 100 list.  — Fauna

From Han Han’s blog:

Come quickly, leave quickly

Recently, lots of media outlets have been wanting to interview me about the Shanghai Expo. I find this annoying. If I praise it, I fear my conscience will be bothered, but I can’t in good conscience criticize it either. Since the Expo is opening, I’ll just use my blog to respond publicly to all questions relating to the Expo and Shanghai. Please don’t ask me any questions on these topics after this.

1: What do you think the Expo will bring to Shanghai, to China? What can you use to make a metaphor about the Expo?

Answer: I think it’s not what the Expo brings to China but what China brings to the Expo. The Expo hasn’t always been such a large-scale event. As information became easier to pass around, the [tradition of the] Expo went into decline, but China will elevate its status again. If you really want a metaphor, it’s sort of like when a domestic clothing brand is very hot and heavily advertised. You wear the clothes and feel badass and extravagant, but when you go abroad and ask around you discover it’s actually a second-rate brand.

Hai Bao, the 2010 Shanghai World Expo mascot.

2: How do you feel about the Expo’s mascot Haibao?

Answer: Haibao makes my head hurt. When everyone saw that he was flat, it raised a big problem for those who were trying to make three-dimensional Haibaos: what should his back look like? Does he have a tail? Does he have a butt? Does he have a butt crack? No one knew, so when we saw statues of Haibao in the city the front sides were all the same, but some Haibaos had backs without cracks, and others had cracks. But recently, because the Haibaos without butt cracks were more numerous, the butt crack has been announced officially as having left China.

3: After the Expo, all the exhibition halls will be torn down, do you think it’s a waste?

Answer: I think it’s not wasteful. Our country is building its own pavilion, and helping other countries with theirs, and the government has spent lots of money, but keeping them in Shanghai after the Expo is useless. They can’t become government offices, so tear them down and leave a big flat of land [the government can sell to people] to build and sell housing. So ultimately, this Expo isn’t put on by the government or by businesses, but by the “house slaves” [slaves to home mortgages] and renting tenants of Shanghai.

4: So why does the government want to leave a few of the buildings up?

Answer: Of course you can’t tear them all down, if you do, then the area won’t be called the “World Expo District” and you won’t be able to get a good price on the land.

5: Some people have said that during the Expo, lots of extra cars will be in Shanghai, you’ll have to wait to pass various [police] checkpoints, traffic will often be backed up for several kilometers, people will have to wait in two or three hour lines at the Expo; do you think there’s a better way?

Answer: I don’t have any way of dealing with this either. Because the government must defend against thieves, terrorists, reactionaries, and the ordinary common people all with one set of security standards; I’m not sure who is being protected with the requirements that everyone be inspected. But I know that if I was a bad person, I wouldn’t wait obediently in line at the security check, cradling my bomb in my hands. The boundaries between cities are not as serious as those between countries; it’s very possible all that separates the two is a paddy field. If you want to get in, it’s easy; I don’t think these security checkpoints will be able to ferret out people bent on doing something bad. But perhaps the government thinks doing things this way is intimidating and it will terrify the bad people, so [if that’s the case] then everyone ought to be waiting in lines.

But regardless, I always support better public security. As long as the government has properly weighed the pros and cons, I’m willing to accept any kind of security check. Indirectly because of the Expo, many people in the city have already been harmed by engineering projects and cars, and I really don’t want anyone to lose their lives [because of the Expo].

6: How many tourists do you think the Expo will bring to Shanghai?

Answer: I can’t really speak to this. Going specifically for the Expo and just coming to Shanghai and happening to visit the Expo are two different things. Officials say there will be sixty million visitors to Shanghai within the half-year period, but I figure Shanghai is already a city that attracts people, so even without the Expo it might have fifty-nine million people coming during that period. Anyway, if I were traveling abroad, whether a country was holding the Expo or not wouldn’t have any influence on deciding where I went. Perhaps foreigners haven’t seen much of the world, so they want to come [to the Expo] to check it out. Of course, I have many friends who are looking forward to the Expo and want to go see it, and I understand that. The Expo is going to be a big spectacle, and Chinese people like spectacle, just look at how many people go to car exhibitions/shows! I can also understand people in Shanghai who can’t wait for the Expo to open, because they can use it to show their city to people from elsewhere in China and to foreigners, show them how awesome Shanghai is: “50,000 RMB for a square meter [of housing space], 20 RMB to park your car for an hour, gas prices above 1 USD per liter, seeing a doctor, eating, taking a cab, etc. everything is very expensive. [Our] life expenses are five times yours, and our salaries are a fifth of yours, but we’re still alive and we’re happy to welcome visitors from all over.” The people are the most badass exhibit the city has to offer. I suggest several Shanghainese should be chosen to be displayed as works of art in the China pavilion.

Hai Bao with a pretty girl.

7: What do you think of the city of Shanghai?

Answer: I was born here and have always loved this place, and I hope the city is happy and beautiful even if my old home has already been taken over by pollution. Speaking fairly, if you have money, Shanghai is a good place to be, whether it is shopping, scale, consumption, entertainment, Shanghai is pretty good. In terms of the economy, on the whole, this is an adventurer’s playground, this is the ordinary common people’s turf.

But there is no culture in Shanghai. Speaking of other countries’ big cities, you can say, “here we have architecture, hotels, famous streets and mansions.” Shanghai’s leaders pride themselves on being able to say we have that stuff in Shanghai, too, but if the people from other countries say, “Here we have authors, directors, artists, exhibits, film festivals, etc.” Shanghai’s leaders have nothing to say in response.

8: Why is that [in reference to Han Han’s answer above]?

Answer: Developing true culture requires relaxing standards [for censorship, etc.], relaxing standards means that “a hundred schools of thought will contend”. “A hundred schools of thought contending” will enlighten the people, and what a terrible mess that would be!

9: The government has said there’s nothing wrong with eating genetically altered food, and also said that we must avoid having it in the area of the Expo lest foreigners eat it by accident, is this a kind of prejudice against ourselves?

Answer: Nonsense, it’s obviously self-confidence, confidence in the strength of our Chinese bodies. We breath this kind of air every day, drink this kind of water every day, we’ve come up struggling [and become accustomed to it]. Foreigners drink one mouthful of pesticide and fall over dead, but we can drink three before dying. So your question is wrong.

The pesticide-resistant person you’ve been looking for. chinaSMACK personals.

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Written by C. Custer

C. Custer is a full-fledged China enthusiast whose interests include literature, history, language, and philosophy. He graduated from Brown in 2008 with a B.A. in East Asian Studies, and is currently teaching Chinese in New England and administering ChinaGeeks, a China translation, news, and analysis blog.