Turning a missed opportunity into a negative (Updated)

Read U.S. Running Out of Time to Join Shanghai Expo by Glenn Kessler in the Washington Post. This story is a window in the Bush Administration’s view of public diplomacy and, unfortunately, the failure to aggressively prioritize and repair public diplomacy since January 20th.

Also read Adam Minter’s post at Shanghai Scrap about the debacle (h/t Jim Fallows):

Late yesterday afternoon Expo 2010 organizers announced that all national pavilion construction work must begin by June 30. Those who miss the deadline will not be allowed to build their own pavilions, and must instead seek space in a “standardized” pavilion or use a common pavilion. The statement didn’t single out any particular country, but the target of this ultimatum is unmistakably the United States which, along with Andorra and Columbia, is the only country with Chinese diplomatic relations that has not confirmed for the Expo – and perhaps the only nation to have missed multiple fundraising and construction deadlines (set by itself, no less). …

… the authorized US pavilion group has only raised $1.5 million of their $61 million budget. The poor fundraising record only hints at the recent disarray and disagreements that have plagued the inexperienced US effort.

And it’s not the only point of disagreement on fundraising that exists within the authorized group, either. Late last month, in two telephone calls for a story that I published in the Atlantic, co-chair Nick Winslow claimed that the “authorized” group had borrowed money from the Chinese government to pay for the pavilion design and site preparation work after it had run out of money (a story that Winslow has told to others). Then, today, in the same Washington Post story, the authorized group claims, instead, that a “Chinese construction company provided the funds for engineering work.” It’s worth noting that the Expo 2010 organizing committee is a branch of the Chinese government, and it maintains a list of “preferred” service providers, including a large number of state-owned construction firms. Presumably, a private firm isn’t going to extend credit to a US non-profit that’s shown itself incapable of raising money – unless somebody is guaranteeing the loan.