China Actively Preparing to Shine at Next Year’s Osaka Expo; Seeks to Enhance Image, Perhaps Lay Groundwork for 2035 Bid

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Chinese guests participate in a groundbreaking ceremony for the China Pavilion on Friday at Yumeshima, Osaka City.

Many countries are lagging in their preparations for the 2025 Osaka-Kansai Expo, but China’s proactive stance stands out. Beijing has secured the largest plot in the international section, and high-ranking government officials attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the China Pavilion.

China is believed to be trying to improve its image through the Expo, amid signs of a slowdown in its economic growth, which hints at the nation’s desire to bid to host the 2035 World Expo.

Beautiful business card

“At the Osaka Expo, we will strive to make the China Pavilion the most beautiful ‘business card’ for China,” said Ren Hongbin, chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, during the groundbreaking ceremony held on Yumeshima island in Osaka, the venue for the Expo.

Located at the center of the Grand Roof (Ring), the China Pavilion is a showpiece for the Expo. Its floor area of approximately 3,500 square meters makes it the largest international pavilion, and the exterior is inspired by ancient Chinese books called “Zhujian” made of bamboo slips.

According to a spokesperson for the council, the goal is to continually expand China’s influence and showcase its style, spirit and power to the world.

Out of 55 countries designing Type A Pavilions, only three, including Singapore, had started construction by Friday.

“Even with the ongoing challenges in Japan-China relations, China’s attitude towards the Expo remains positive,” said an official from the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) who helped Japan win the right to host the event.

Touting environmental technology

China has historically used global events like the Olympics and World Expos to enhance its national prestige.

Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics in 2008 and the Winter Olympics in 2022. In 2010, Shanghai successfully hosted a World Expo, a landmark year when China surpassed Japan in gross domestic product and showcased its status as an economic powerhouse to the world.

Amid uncertainties in the Chinese economy, which has seen a decline in direct investments, China intends to promote China’s environmental technology at the Expo and advance “economic and trade exchanges and mutual understanding between China and other nations,” according to Ren of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade. Some speculate that China’s proactive approach is linked to a bid for the 2035 Expo.

The Chinese government has not officially expressed its view, but the pro-China Hong Kong newspaper Takungpao carried a special article in November 2022 suggesting that Hong Kong and Shenzhen in Guangdong Province should jointly host the Expo in 2035.

Li Jiachao, Hong Kong’s chief executive, expressed a positive stance during a press conference, saying it was “worth considering.”

The Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) decided at its November 2023 general assembly that Riyadh would host the 2030 Expo instead of Busan, South Korea. This leaves room for an Asian host in 2035, and if China wants to put in a bid, it must make a strong impression at the Osaka-Kansai Expo.