SHANGHAI, China - He's everywhere here, his smiling visage plastered onto billboards, set into statues, even sculpted into greenery in advance of the 2010 World Expo.
No, not martial-arts star Jackie Chan, an Expo ambassador.
It's Haibao, the fair's sky-blue mascot.
It's impossible to travel even a few blocks without seeing him, his arm extended in a friendly thumbs-up.
Haibao's designers meant for him to resemble the Chinese character for "people," the curl of his hair intended to represent the waves of the ocean. Organizers hoped Haibao would do for the Expo what the five Olympic mascots did for the 2008 Games, generating interest, excitement, and income.
But Haibao, whose name means "Treasure of the Seas," has met with rough sailing.
He's been mocked as looking like an ersatz blue Gumby. Or as some sort of toothlike dental device. Some people say that he looks like a condom - with eyes. And that his haircut doesn't give him the appearance of the ocean, it makes him look like Elvis.
"Haibao is no better or worse, in my opinion, than mascots for other major events," said Jason Inch, a Shanghai-based business consultant and coauthor of Supertrends of Future China: Billion Dollar Business Opportunities for China's Olympic Decade.
Even though Haibao isn't beloved, he said, having a so-so mascot won't diminish the civic and national pride that Chinese feel in hosting the event.
"I actually expect that when the Expo begins," Inch said, "Haibao gift items will be a top seller."