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The Warsaw Voice » Business » April 30, 2010
World Expo 2010 in Shanghai
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Opportunity for Poland in China
April 30, 2010   
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Sławomir Majman, Commissioner General of the Polish section at the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China, talks to Andrzej Ratajczyk.

How will Poland benefit from taking part in the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai? Can such an event improve Poland’s image in China and other Asian countries?
There is little information about Poland in China, so participation in this exhibition offers a unique opportunity to promote Poland and the Poles. In the course of preparations for Expo 2010, we have polled a group of wealthy and well-educated residents of major Chinese cities, Beijing and Shanghai, to study their perceptions of Poland. And it turned out that Poland almost does not exist in their awareness. The Chinese practically do not know anything about Poland. They think that Poland is a country somewhere near Russia, and that Poles are like Russians, only poorer. The Chinese respondents were not able to cite any positive or negative stereotypes about Poland or Poles. It wasn’t even obvious to all of them that Poland is a European country. The Chinese do not recognize any Polish names related to politics, culture or arts. Except perhaps for Frederic Chopin, but they do not completely identify even Chopin with Poland.

Taking this all into consideration, we decided that the World Expo, as the biggest mass event of its kind in history—it will be visited by 70-90 million people—is a unique opportunity for Poland and the Poles to establish a foothold in the Chinese national consciousness. Such an opportunity may not appear again for several generations. Importantly, it’s the Chinese who are footing the bill for publicizing this gigantic event.

What will the main thrust of Poland’s message at Expo 2010 be? Who will this message target?
Above all, we want to tell the Chinese that Poland is a European country. Second, that it’s a modern country. And third, that it’s a friendly and open country. This is the basic message. And we want to reach three main groups with this message. First, the so-called single-child generation, or people in their 30s and 40s, busy pursuing a career, making money, improving their qualifications and climbing the social ladder. Second, we want to target people in state and party posts and managers in the business world. And third, the youth in the big cities—those who in 10 years will shape the fate of the new China.

How does Poland aim to get itself noticed?
We’ve devised a different way of addressing each of the target groups. For example, we reach the business community through Polish-Chinese business roundtable talks held in collaboration with local partners. And we do not limit initiatives to promote the Polish economy to Shanghai, Beijing or Guangzhou. While preparing business missions, we also take into consideration cities that are smaller by Chinese standards (with 5 to 7 million residents), where Polish business has better prospects for achieving a high-profile presence.

While preparing business presentations, you cannot forget about creating a friendly political climate, without which boosting business would be difficult. That’s why since the beginning of preparations for the Expo, China has been visited by two Polish deputy prime ministers, the head of the prime minister’s office, several ministers and deputy ministers from ministries related to the economy. Under this carefully drawn up strategy, delegations of Polish businesspeople visiting China have always included a member of the government. This added credibility to business missions and signaled that Poland attaches importance to developing business relations with China.

Meanwhile, young Chinese people will be attracted by the Polish pavilion, which in the late hours transforms into one big nightclub. Young people will be able to enjoy themselves dancing—and learn something about Poland at the same time.

The concept behind the Polish presence in Expo 2010 is based on searching out common themes in Polish and Chinese history, in the way Poles and the Chinese see life. We have decided that the most important of these themes is the experience of migration from rural areas to the cities. The Poles underwent this, sometimes painful, experience in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, when a vast number of people moved from villages to cities. And now the Chinese are experiencing this process. We want to tell them that despite initial difficulties, Poles managed to create a new society and a new good life in the cities.

What other common experiences can be used to promote Poland in China?
We also want to demonstrate that Poles and the Chinese both have a spirit of entrepreneurship that has not been extinguished by decades of a centrally planned economy. The folk art of paper cutouts, still cultivated in China, is yet another common experience. In reference to this, the Polish pavilion was designed to look like a huge paper cutout. But the Polish pavilion will not feature traditional Polish symbols—bread on burdock leaves, European bison from Białowieska Forest or girls in folk costumes. Polish experience linked with migration, as well as the fast growing Polish economy will be presented with the use of the latest multimedia. We want to demonstrate that Poland is a modern country where young and creative people live.

Will the Expo and the related business missions encourage more Chinese investment in Poland?
We should not expect an immediate and spectacular success. But in the longer term, within the next five to seven years, China may become a serious investor on the Polish market. It will certainly be easier to attract Chinese investors after the success last year of a Chinese company in being awarded a public tender for the construction of two freeway sections in Poland. This was a first not only in Poland, but in Europe as a whole. This was important, because it demonstrated to the Chinese that Poland is an open country, with no traditions of anti-Asian protectionism, unlike certain large European countries. One key argument that we present to the Chinese is that Poland may be a gateway to Europe for them.
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