Shanghai is readying itself for the 2010 World Expo, rebuilding its skylines while reinventing its global image.

The World’s Fair was once the ultimate showcase for a country’s latest technological and industrial advancements. From the 1851 “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations” in London to the 1964 New York Fair, where Disney first unveiled “It’s a Small World” to an adoring public, the fairs have long brought together international invention and cultural exchange. While the traditional role of the World’s Fair has lost some significance in this globalized era, the expositions have taken on a new public diplomacy purpose, providing countries the opportunity to show off what they have become.

Now, Shanghai looks to reinvigorate the importance of the world exhibition while cementing its image as a city of global commerce and culture. Stretched out along the Huangpu River, the 2010 Shanghai World Expo will bring together nearly 200 nations, international organizations, and corporate exhibitors to. The Expo expects to receive 70 million visitors in its 184 days of operation. In comparison, the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando sees roughly 17 million visitors a year.

In preparation for the grand opening, Shanghai is under constant construction. From renovating the historic Bund to new high-speed trains and subways, the city is undergoing a makeover of mass proportion. The Chinese government has poured nearly US$45 billion into remaking Shanghai’s skylines and streets.

The Shanghai World Expo runs from May 1-October 31, 2010. Until the Expo opens its doors to the world, Shanghai must be rebuilt. US-China Today photographer Esther Young takes us through the city’s transformation: