Folio November 3, 2006
Volume 44 Number 4 Edmonton, Canada November 3, 2006

China Institute launched

Centre already 'on the map'

by Richard Cairney
A dragon dance helped wrap up the official launch of the U of A China Institute on Oct. 23.
A dragon dance helped wrap up the official launch
of the U of A China Institute on Oct. 23.

The University of Alberta celebrated the opening of its China Institute on Oct. 23, with a handful of university vice presidents from China, scores of dignitaries and the donors whose $37-million gift made the institute possible.

Chancellor emeritus Sandy Mactaggart and his wife Cecile donated Cecile's $37-million collection of Chinese textiles in April, 2005, with the Government of Alberta matching the funding.

Acting director of the institute, Dr. Wenran Jiang, said in an interview that the China Institute has a strong international reputation, but isn't well-known at home.

"The institute is now recognized all across the world," said Jiang, a political science professor. "Our institute is on the map." Last week, for example, Jiang was one of four China experts invited to Ottawa to consult with senior cabinet ministers on Canada's relationship with China.

As well as providing public policy analysis and advice, the China centre will be the epicenter of the U of A's China projects.

Among those projects is an educational program for university vice presidents from China - 22 of them attended the China Institute launch. Another is a School of Business program that helps train some of the Chinese government's most senior bureaucrats.

"It is not that the China Institute will take over the entire China operation but we are very much the co-ordinating organ," he said.

U of A President Indira Samarasekera said the institute's launch "marks a new stage in this university's long history of relations with China and Chinese institutions."

China, she noted, is the fourth-largest economy in world, attracts the largest amount of foreign investment, is the second-largest consumer of oil in world and is Alberta's largest trading partner.

"It is clear that Albertans need even greater knowledge of China's culture, politics, of industry, business, and language to help sustain our future economic health and well-being," she said, adding that the institute will "lead the way to new partnerships with Chinese business and government . . . and most importantly with the people of China."

Jiang agrees it is important that Alberta and Canada understand China and form strong partnerships with the nation. Within the next three to four decades China will eclipse the U.S. as the world's largest economy. It is Canada's second-largest trading partner, he said, and will eventually take over Canada's spot as America's largest trading partner.

"It is most vital that we understand China and make ourselves a part of the benefit of the Chinese economy at the same time we cope with the challenges it presents in the coming decades," he said. "There is no doubt that China is going to affect Canadian life in significant ways."