MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:
The 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis introduced the world to X-rays and ice cream cones. The New York World's Fair of 1939 unveiled television and nylon stockings. A month from now, China will reveal the modern day successor to those memorable events, but the Shanghai Expo seems to be less about inventions and more about politics - as NPR's Louisa Lim reports.
LOUISA LIM: So is this expo all about politics? I went to ask those representing their countries.
PETER SAMS: We pick up about 25 moments in Australian contemporary history...
LIM: Australia is one of the most expensive pavilions per capita at $76 million. Its rust-red steel exterior hints at the massive trade in natural resources between Canberra and Beijing. This trade indirectly led to one of the lowest points in the bilateral relationship, the sentencing earlier this week of Australian citizen Stern Hu to 10 years in prison for bribery and stealing commercial secrets about China's steel needs. And being here is a political act. Pavilion Director Peter Sams doesn't deny that.
SAMS: China is extraordinarily important to Australia, has been for a very long time. Us helping China have a successful expo is a very important part of our bilateral relationship.
RAJESH KUMAR: All these pillars come from different dynasties of India...
LIM: India is spending $50 million in total, he says, but it's not political.
KUMAR: This is a World Expo, it's not a political forum. This is not at all to do with any kind of politics or any kind of diplomacy. Nothing.
LIM: Private sponsors may be footing the bill, but pavilion COO Mark Germyn says it won't simply be a corporate advertisement.
MARK GERMYN: Unidentified Man (Announcer): The exhibits of the Japan pavilion are based on the theme Wa(ph).
LIM: Japan's pavilion director, Noriyoshi Ehara, is so protective of it he asked the foreign press to remove their shoes before entry. Relations between Tokyo and Beijing have been haunted by Japan's wartime atrocities. But Ehara is confident that the pavilion will remake ties anew.
NORIYOSHI EHARA: We have this historical issue, but now we are going to create new relations. Japan's pavilion expresses the new relation with China.
LIM: Do you think the expo is going to be the start of a new bilateral relationship.
EHARA: That's right, that's right.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
LIM: Louisa Lim, NPR News, Shanghai.
LOUISE KELLY: For a sneak peak of the Shanghai World Expo exhibits, go to our Web site npr.org.