A view of China pavilion at the Expo 2015 in Milan, Italy, May 2, 2015. The Expo opened on May 1 for a six-month run and its theme is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”. [Photo/China Daily]
Since its opening on May 1, the China Pavilion in Expo Milano 2015 has welcomed more than 2 million visitors, becoming one of the most popular pavilions in the expo.
From May 1 to Oct 31, about 145 countries, three international organizations and 13 nongovernmental organizations are scheduled to take part in the expo, which is expected to attract more than 20 million visitors.
Wang Rui, deputy pavilion director of China Pavilion Expo Milano 2015, told China Daily that this is the first time China has built its pavilion in a world expo independently.
This year, the country is presenting the second-largest foreign pavilion at the expo, which is themed “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”.
The China Pavilion has a total construction surface area of 4,590 square meters, making it the second-largest pavilion after the Italian one.
In the past four months, the China Pavilion received an average of 10,000 daily visitors, and that could peak at 20,000, Wang said. But the pavilion’s innovative design means visitors will not have to wait in long lines to get in, Wang said.
“Agricultural civilization” forms the core concept of the China Pavilion. It is structured like a thatched cottage used by Chinese farmers to rest after hours of laboring in paddy fields.
The pavilion also embodies the project’s theme, “The Land of Hope”－the roof is covered by a layer of shingled bamboo, making the building seem like a moving wheat field under the breeze from a distance. According to Wang, the roof panels were designed via a unique digital process by China’s Tsinghua University. The building combines existing civilization concepts and ideas for future development.
“The China Pavilion is aimed at merging the two perspectives together. As an ancient civilization, agriculture and food safety are important issues to China, while sustainability is also a crucial element for future development,” Wang said. Sustainability in the design is reflected in half opened spaces to lower energy consumption and generate less waste.
Beneath the roof, a landscaped field representing the concept of “land” incorporates the building’s exhibition program. With a 20-minute multimedia installation consisting of 22,000 LED stalks integrated into the landscape, visitors from the second floor are able to see different beautiful patterns, including traditional terraced fields, colorful flowers and changing lights made by the stalks .
Many Italian visitors, including high-level officials, have expressed their fondness for the pavilion. Margherita Barberis, director-general of Foundation Italy China, told China Daily that she went to the pavilion a few times already, but it still impresses her every time she visits.
“I come to the expo once or twice a week,” she said. “The China Pavilion is very impressive and beautiful, and the organization of it is well done. It is a rare case among the popular expo pavilions in that it does not require long waiting times.
“I think the most impressive thing in the Chinese pavilion is the wheat field made up of more than 20,000 of LED lights,” she said. “China is one of the countries in the world with the best solar energy industries, and that is reflected by those LED lights in the venue.”
The exterior of the pavilion is also very beautiful, Barberis said. She said because she has been visiting China frequently for 15 years, she had thought that there would be nothing that would surprise her. However, when she saw the pavilion, it brought a warm feeling, like going back to China.
Dominici Anna, an Italian white-collar worker, had to attend a meeting near the expo, so during her one-hour break, she chose to visit the Chinese pavilion for a taste of the expo.
“The peaceful display of the pavilion is good, other pavilions want to show a lot of high-tech effects, but I like the beauty of nature presented in the China Pavilion,” she said. She also mentioned that although the pavilion is popular, she still can get in without waiting too long.
Fabrizio Grillo, secretary-general of the Italy Pavilion, told China Daily that it was “so nice and impressive to see so many differences among all China’s different regions, provinces, the historical traditions”.
This year is also the first time for a China Pavilion at an expo to combine the functions of showcasing the country and promoting economic trade, Wang said.
“Between Italy and China, there are many sectors that offer the possibility of build bilateral economic relations,” Grillo said.
Since 1982, the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade has organized the China Pavilion for 15 world expos.
According to Wang, the development of China pavilions in the previous expos is a process of gradual improvement. Compared to previous years, Chinese authorities have placed greater emphasis on the economic and trade aspects. This change results from the communication with other countries, “at the expo platform we not only showcase ourselves, but also learn and absorb others’ advantages”, Wang said.
“We learned from other experienced countries such as Italy, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Those countries are very dedicated to the expo and to the promotion of their economic development and trade relationship through the expo. From the design and exhibitions of their pavilions, you can feel the enthusiasm of promoting trade ties,” Wang said.
“Slightly, step by step, we adjust our design and concept of the pavilion to adapt to new international trends,” he said.
China’s provincial governments have also organized a series of higher-end economic and trade promotional activities for investors and projects through the platform.
Strong political ties between the two countries are also providing a strong foundation for business and cultural ties, Barberis said.
She is very optimistic about China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a reference to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives, transport infrastructure projects linking Asia and Europe, proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013－and she believes that this policy will be very successful.
The Milan Expo is providing a great opportunity to deepen bilateral exchanges and many Chinese and Italian businesses have been able to discuss cooperation in a series of themed conferences held during the global event, she said.
According to Wang, in the past few months, the China Pavilion has hosted more than 15 provincial-level trade promotion events; in September, Shandong province held the largest one with more than 300 Chinese and Italian enterprises participating during the Shandong Week industry event.
Yantai Changyu Pioneer Wine Co, a leading Chinese wine producer, also took part in the event. According to Sun Jian, deputy general manager of the company, since 2012, the company has placed greater emphasis on its overseas market to hedge declining domestic sales, and has established cooperation with many European companies in traditional wine producing countries including France, Spain and Italy.
The company attended the five-day Shandong Week at the expo, during which it negotiated plans with two Italian winemakers.
As early as 2011, Italian sparkling wine maker Donelli signed an agreement to issue and transfer its intellectual property rights in the Chinese market to Changyu, including its trademark and Chinese brand name. They plan to further their cooperation.
Changyu is also negotiating with the Generali Group, which has seven chateaus in Italy. The agreement would allow Changyu to use Generali’s wine laboratory, one of the most advanced in the world.
“Every province places a lot of emphasis on this platform. We held events in various formats including visiting local enterprises, banquets and trade fairs. We also received very positive feedback from the Italian side,” Wang said.
Many Chinese companies seek business opportunities in Italy through the platform. Founded in 1998 at Weifang, Shandong, Foton Lovol International Heavy Industry Co recorded 2.8 billion euros ($3.1 billion) in sales revenue last year. It also bought an Italian agricultural machinery company earlier this year.
“Through the acquisition, we would like to promote high-end agricultural machine in the Chinese market, and it will set up a new center in Italy Emilia Romagna,” said Massimo Zubelli, general manager of Lovol Europe, during the trade fair at Shandong Week.
More economic trading functions are expected to play major roles in the design of China pavilions in future world expos, to use the global platform to propel international trade relationships, Wang said.