Keynote Address at the Canada-China Business Council’s (CCBC) 35th Annual General Meeting and Policy Conference (Beijing, China)
Beijing, China, Friday, October 18, 2013
Thank you for this invitation to speak to this important assembly. It is wonderful to see you all gathered here together.
Let me begin by paying tribute to life and work of Paul Desmarais Sr., a great Canadian business leader who was a founding member of this group.
He will be missed. Please join me in a brief moment of silence to remember our friend and colleague.
As you know, I had the opportunity to attend your annual meeting in Montréal just under a year ago, and I appreciate the invitation to join you here in Beijing.
I am especially pleased to be in China at this particular moment in time. Your 35th annual general meeting is a milestone. It reminds us that ours is a relationship with a rich history, in fact one dating back to the pre-revolutionary days before the formal recognition of today’s People’s Republic of China.
Today, the Canada-China relationship is in transition yet again. And this autumn in fact we are experiencing a Canadian presence in China to an extent seldom seen before.
As His Excellency Zhang Junsai, Ambassador of China to Canada said shortly before I left Canada, “The fall of this year is really a Canadian fall in China.”
Let us consider for a moment the number of Canada-related events taking place in China at the moment.
In addition to this annual meeting and your earlier policy, business and innovation conferences, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson is leading a significant delegation to China from Canada’s capital city.
Just last week, Minister of International Trade Ed Fast visited China to promote bilateral trade and investment. Joining us today are Ministers Baird and Oliver, who themselves have led busy programs in China over the last few days.
I am also delighted to be attending a performance of Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra tomorrow night in Shanghai, as part of its first-ever tour of mainland China. I understand the orchestra’s concert last night here in Beijing was magnificent.
I will also be officially opening a fascinating photo exhibit in Guangzhou called the Barkerville Exhibition, which highlights the stories of the first Chinese immigrants to Canada—those who went in search of gold to the town of Barkerville, British Columbia.
And finally, my State visit as governor general of Canada is of course part of this “Canadian autumn” in China.
I am proud to be leading a delegation of Canadians to meet with our Chinese counterparts and to talk about our potential to increase prosperity and to strengthen education, cultural understanding and innovation.
On that note, let me point out the striking parallel between the broad objectives of my State visit and your agenda for this annual general meeting.
You too recognize the need to look at the big picture when it comes to the relationship between Canada and China.
Your conference theme highlights the importance of taking a “multi-pronged approach” to our relationship—one with a shared emphasis on economic diplomacy, knowledge diplomacy, cultural diplomacy and energy diplomacy.
As you know, Canada and China are experiencing remarkable growth across the spectrum of our relationship, so this broad approach is both relevant and timely.
It also recognizes the transformation that is taking place, not only in the Canada-China relationship but within our respective countries as well.
We often hear people talk about how China has changed and is reforming, but seldom do we hear how Canada has changed. The fact is that both of our countries are changing in numerous ways, which means we must be sure to take a clear-eyed look at our own, evolving, domestic contexts even as we learn about one another.
That being said, there is no doubt that our bilateral relationship is multifaceted and maturing on a number of fronts.
Allow me to briefly highlight our progress in a number of specific areas: trade, education, culture and innovation.
In terms of trade, for example, China is now Canada’s second-largest trading partner and second-largest source of merchandise exports.
The two-way relationship in foreign direct investment between Canada and China has also grown significantly. According to Statistics Canada, Chinese investment in Canada has risen rapidly from $0.9 billion in 2005 to $12.0 billion in 2012. Canadian investment in China has also grown quickly – from $1.8 billion in 2005 to $4.2 billion in 2012.
Today, more than 400 Canadian firms are active in China, ranging from large multinationals to small- and medium-sized enterprises. Opportunities exist and are being seized by Canadian companies in life sciences, automotive and aerospace industries, transportation, financial services, information and communication technologies and sustainable technology, among others.
Of course, as business leaders you are well aware of these trends and numbers.
Indeed, you are the driving force behind them!
This reminds us of a basic but important truth: whether we are talking about business, education, culture or innovation, the relationship between China and Canada is all about people.
Let’s move on to also consider our significant—and growing—educational ties.
With more than 84 000 Chinese students enrolled in Canadian schools, China is Canada’s largest source of foreign students. An estimated 3 400 Canadian students are studying in China, meanwhile.
I should also note that it is possible to get a Canadian education in China without even leaving the country. Over 20,000 Chinese high school students are currently doing so in the 70 Canadian curriculum schools located all over Greater China – and more schools are opening every year.
Together, our two countries have set an ambitious objective of 100 000 students studying in each other’s country by 2017.
As a former university professor and administrator with a great love of learning, I am delighted to see this commitment to knowledge diplomacy between Canada and China.
Our students, and indeed our societies at large, have so much to gain from the lasting linkages they are forming with each other’s countries.
Indeed, I have seen this effect in my own life, as a father of three daughters who studied in China. Debbie studied at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, at Zhejiang University and at Nanjing University. Alex for two years at the Beijing Language and Culture University and at Hangzhou University. And another daughter, Jenifer, spent eight months at Fudan University in Shanghai on her Queen’s MPA as part of the international element of that program.
They all learned a great deal and made many friends, and today are sharing their appreciation for Chinese language and culture with their loved ones.
Time and again I have seen the remarkable things that can happen when diverse people achieve the right mixture of creativity, communication and co-operation. By learning and sharing knowledge, we strengthen our communities and our countries. The flow of students in both directions between China and Canada is transforming our relationship.
Culturally, I have already mentioned the current tour of the National Art Centre Orchestra and the new exhibition about Barkerville. In Canada, we are looking forward to staging an exhibition of Chinese treasures from the Palace Museum—another example of our active cultural ties.
Equally exciting is the prospect of China’s National Centre for the Performing Arts Orchestra travelling to Canada for a reciprocal tour next year. I am certain that Canadian audiences will respond just as enthusiastically as their Chinese counterparts.
Let me also note our progress in the realm of language—the key to culture.
As Nelson Mandela observed: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
In Canada today, more than one million Canadians speak Mandarin, Cantonese or another Chinese language, according to the 2011 census. This is a testament to the depth of our ties and a formula for greater understanding.
What I also find encouraging about the latest census, however, is how its methodology has evolved to reflect our growing appreciation for the distinctions among Chinese languages spoken in Canada.
As recently as 1996, the census did not distinguish between the different Chinese languages. In 2001, the category was expanded to include Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka and a fourth, general category for all others. In 2006, the classification was expanded again to include four more Chinese languages: Taiwanese, Chaochow, Fukien and Shanghainese.
My point is not to suggest that all Canadians and all Chinese must learn one another’s languages and dialects, wonderful though that would be. Rather, my aim is to highlight the value of mutual curiosity and learning in our relationship.
Today, as Canada and China become steadily more important to one another, we need to broaden our learning and deepen our mutual comprehension. Culture is one of the primary means by which this is done.
Let me turn now to innovation, a sphere where we enjoy another fruitful partnership.
Signed in 2007, the Canada-China Agreement for Scientific and Technological Cooperation is one of the cornerstones of our relationship. As in our trading relationship, areas for mutual collaboration include health and life sciences; energy and the environment; agriculture; civil aviation and information and communications technologies.
Let me elaborate with a few very specific opportunities for co-operation in innovation.
One is sustainable technologies. China’s efforts to create a model for sustainable growth will continue to create opportunities in efforts to control air pollution and to support energy efficiency and green building, carbon capture, utilization and storage and waste management.
Today, various levels of government in China intend to address specific challenges in clean water, air quality, public transportation and carbon capture. The green building market is also growing rapidly in China. These are all areas where Canada has a strong record—think of our embrace of the LEED certification system for green buildings, or our state-of-the-art carbon capture utilization and storage facilities. Our air pollution prevention and control industry also has a reputation for quality and innovation.
I could go on. My point is that our potential for collaboration in new and emerging fields of science, technology and innovation is great, and growing.
On that note, I look forward to hearing the outcomes of the 5th meeting of the Canada-China Joint Committee on Science and Technology, which I understand will be meeting here in Beijing later this month. Canada will bring a high-level delegation to this discussion that will help to strengthen our bilateral relationship and lead to enhanced prosperity for both of our countries.
I also know this assembly gathered yesterday to discuss innovation, and I am interested to learn more about your conclusions. Your policy conference on Wednesday also covered some relevant and important topics and brought insights by some knowledgeable authorities.
This council is a platform for knowledge, experience and success. I understand more than 200 organizations are members of the Canada-China Business Council, a number that includes large global companies, SMEs, academic institutions, government agencies and arts and non-profit organizations.
This broad focus again speaks to my theme today: the importance of seeing things whole and collaborating widely in our world today, and in the Canada-China relationship in particular.
I would like to commend the members of this organization for coming together with the aim of strengthening ties between our two countries.
Let me end my remarks today by invoking the words of my predecessor, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, the 26th governor general of Canada who has roots among the Toysan and Hakka people of Southern China, as well as in her birthplace of Hong Kong.
As she once eloquently said of the relationship between Canada and China:
“Our national differences are rather obvious, but what we share is more interesting and much more important. A spirit of genuine friendship creates a hopeful and positive context, for as the Chinese proverb says, “If I keep a green bough in my heart, then the singing bird will come.” When we nourish optimism, openness and a willingness to learn from each other, we are preparing a perch for all the exchanges that are possible among our citizens.”
With this in spirit of sharing in mind, I wish you the very best.