Shanghai's market-savvy leaders and cultural commissars are bidding to secure the 2010 World Expo and a Disney theme park to make the city China's unrivalled entertainment and arts centre. But an ongoing clash over how far to liberalise the cultural sector could endanger ambitions to beat Beijing. Huang Yaocheng, a member of the committee organising Shanghai's bid to host the world fair eight years from now, says: 'There is no formal or written order on the subject, but Shanghai has long had the goal of becoming China's arts and cultural centre.' China will pump US$3 billion (HK$23.4 billion) into the expo if Shanghai wins the bid, including US$100 million in aid to countries such as Yemen, Nigeria and other developing nations for exhibition halls. But indirect investment in World Expo 2010 could reach as high as US$30 billion. Officials working on the bid say Shanghai hopes to use the expo as part of an ongoing drive to rejuvenate the city and support the economy. Mr Huang says the area where Shanghai plans to hold the expo, along the Huangpu River, 'now holds iron and steel plants, ship-building works and dilapidated housing - all remnants of the old economy'. Envisioned is a hi-tech, environmentally friendly expo district. He says the project chimes with moves to reduce Shanghai's role as a manufacturing base and phase in tertiary industry, such as services, culture and exhibitions. He says Shanghai hopes to hold up its transformation 'as a model of urban sustainable development, not only for the rest of China but the rest of the world'. City officials have also made a Disney theme park a priority, although a deal is far from certain. A senior city official says Shanghai is in negotiations with Disney but has not yet signed a legally binding contract. The drive to grab the World Expo and the Disney park follows Shanghai's rapid-fire completion of China's best library, museum and opera house over the past decade. A Shanghai government spokeswoman says city officials who support heavy investment in cultural infrastructure 'constantly talk about building Shanghai into the nation's top arts base'. The city is following up on the 576-million-yuan (HK$546 million) Shanghai Museum and the 1.3-billion-yuan Shanghai Grand Theatre, which surround the government's headquarters near People's Park, with the 800-million-yuan Oriental Arts Centre in the Pudong development zone. But photographer Wang Guang-feng says Shanghai's leaders have a short-sighted view of the city's cultural future. Mr Wang, who runs a photo studio in Shanghai called Gang of One, complains that 'facilities like the Shanghai Museum and the Grand Theatre are for the rich, not for the ordinary people. 'Shanghai has a long way to go to bring the arts to the masses,' he says. Abstract painter Ding Yi, recently evicted from his warehouse-turned-art-studio near Suzhou Creek in Shanghai, says artists still have a 'very low position' in the city's overall plan for development. Ding says he and a dozen other artists who converted the warehouse into studios lodged an appeal to stop the demolition of the building, but it was rejected by Shanghai officialdom. 'Unlike in the West, there are no government funds to support individual artists or preferential tax policies to encourage the rich to acquire art,' he says. But there has been some progress in support of the arts, Ding says. As more foreign companies set up shop in Shanghai, a market for works by local artists is slowly emerging, and that trend is attracting artists from other parts of China. 'Other than two taboo subjects - sex and politics - most forms of expression are now permitted in the arts,' he says. That marks a great leap forward from the tumultuous Cultural Revolution of 1966 to 1976, when Shanghai's radical leaders tried to create a pure communist culture by wiping out traditional Chinese art and Western influence in the city. But some Shanghai youths say the government still maintains an iron grip on certain areas of culture, and is trying to build barriers against the full-scale invasion of Western pop music into the city. Indeed, Shanghai's rules on 'Administration of the Culture and Entertainment Market' threaten massive fines and closure for venues that admit minors into computer game halls or hire entertainers from outside China without obtaining a permit. The impact of the regulations was felt in the form of a heavy security presence outside a Shanghai nightclub late last year, when British techno-pop deejay Fatboy Slim was scheduled to perform. Police prevented hundreds of ticket-holders from entering the Typhoon Club, and then halted Fatboy Slim's performance shortly after it started. Within hours, the fate of the little-noticed gig was getting lengthy coverage as far away as Canberra, London, Montreal and New York via online magazines and Web radio. The Scandinavia-based e-zine Dee Jay Promotions quoted Fatboy Slim as saying he wanted to visit China as an ambassador of techno art but had instead become a detainee of dance in Shanghai's cultural battles.