Opening Plenary of the 6th Western China International Cooperation Forum (Chengdu, China)
Chengdu, China, Wednesday, October 23, 2013
It is a pleasure to be here at the Western China International Cooperation Forum
I am especially pleased to be in Sichuan, as there are so many ways Canada and this region have historically worked together.
In fact, our relationship dates back over 120 years, when missionaries from Canada founded schools and hospitals here, including the West Union Medical University, now known as West China Medical Centre of Sichuan University. Today, this institution is one of the world’s largest teaching hospitals, and is still actively collaborating with Canadian universities, doctors and scientists.
This is a great example of the strength of our relationship, one that makes me proud to visit this country as governor general.
Although this is the first visit I am making to China in this official capacity, I am no stranger to this country.
As the president of the University of Waterloo, I was honoured to establish the Sino-Canadian College in partnership with Nanjing University. It was also a pleasure to welcome so many students from China to study in Waterloo. Today, in fact, almost a third of all of Canada’s international students come from this country—many from this very region.
And speaking as a father, I was proud when three of my five daughters chose to study in China. They learned a great deal, and to this day they share their appreciation for Chinese language and culture with their loved ones.
I have visited China about a dozen times, and have always been impressed with the way our two countries—and more, our people—have looked beyond language and cultural differences to find ways to work together.
This fall is a case in point. In fact, His Excellency Zhang Junsai, Ambassador of China to Canada, has said: “The fall of this year is really a Canadian fall in China.”
And who could argue with that sentiment?
Consider the number of events happening in China in the next few months. The number of high-level visits and trade delegations visiting taking place, including one from Canada’s capital city, Ottawa. The multiple events being held in this country with the participation of both Canadian and Chinese businesses, such as the Canada-China Business Council annual meeting, and this very event we are attending here in Chengdu.
There are also the cultural exchanges that the Chinese people are enjoying with Canada, including the just-concluded tour of Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra. And, of course, my own State visit to China, bringing with me delegates from across sectors to discuss important issues of prosperity, education, innovation and culture.
All of this demonstrates that Canadians are working closely with the Chinese people to expand our already strong relationship. Canadians and Chinese are consistently engaging in what I like to call the diplomacy of knowledge, sharing ideas and best practices across borders and disciplines. When we do this, we enhance our collective well-being, and specifically our economic well-being.
At the Western China International Fair, we see this first-hand. By looking beyond borders, businesses from all over the world, including Canada, have already succeeded in bringing our countries closer and in generating new economic opportunities.
Let me focus on one word: co-operation. This is so important, particularly when it is practised between nations.
Co-operation, in this case, is a sign of trust.
Trust is never easy to come by, and it is even easier to lose. I have given you many examples of the trust that exists between our two countries, yet we must never take that for granted. We have built trust, relationship by relationship, with official diplomatic ties for more than 40 years, and unofficially through our people-to-people ties for more than a century.
As that trust was built, so was our opportunity to succeed. Today, China is Canada’s second-largest trading partner, and Canada is home to more than 1.3 million people of Chinese origin.
In fact, more than a million Canadians speak Mandarin, Cantonese or another Chinese language, according to the 2011 census. That is one million Canadians who are able to bridge the language gap between our countries, to better explain and understand our intentions and our ideas.
Canada and China recognize that our future prosperity is based on how closely we can co-operate across all levels of society, particularly between our peoples.
When Canadians think of Chinese, and vice versa, we must look beyond what we seek to achieve—be they economic, academic or cultural goals—to focus on one another as human beings who have so much to offer.
Time and again, I have seen that the depth and quality of people-to-people relationships determine the extent of every shared success. Ultimately, our relationship is about people, and that is why I am so pleased to be here today.
As you begin this forum, I hope that you will all keep in mind how vital it is to collaborate with each other in new and creative ways. Be bold, and consider the impact that you can have on individuals in China, Canada and around the world.
Most of all, I wish all of you the best as you continue to find ways to strengthen the relationship between our two countries.