By Catherine Skrzypinski
Government and business delegations from Vancouver, British Columbia and Guangzhou, China gathered Monday, June 15 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of their sister city relationship at the second Canada and China Economic and Finance Forum.
Hosted by Vancouver Economic Commission and Caifu Magazine, the forum gave attendees the opportunity to cultivate relationships with their sister city colleagues. This year marks the 45th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Canada and China, as well as the Year of the Goat, which has special resonance for the city of Guangzhou, as it is known as the city of goats.
Although Vancouver and Guangzhou are separated by the Pacific Ocean, the sister cities are closer than ever, Shaohong Cheng(程少红), general manager of China Southern Airlines told more than 100 business executives, entrepreneurs, investors and politicians at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver.
An in-depth exchange between the cities’ two mayors – Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Guangzhou Mayor Chen Jianhua （陈建华）– highlighted an evening of networking and celebration.
“The business forum is not only a testament to the growing friendly exchanges between the two sides, but also a celebration of the partnership of these two sister cities over the past 30 years,” said Mayor Chen.
Both mayors expressed that they are committed to the “One Belt, One Road” initiative to further develop economic and cultural interactions. Yves Tiberghien, director of the University of British Columbia’s Institute of Asian Research, told the Vancouver Sun in June 2015 “One Belt, One Road” is a vision for increasing regional trade and development between the East and West. “One Belt, One Road” is a modern-day revival of the “Silk Road,” which linked Europe to China as a major trade route more than a thousand years ago.
Mayor Robertson emphasized the special relationship between the two sister cities. “[Vancouver and Guangzhou] have a shared sense of entrepreneurship,” he said. “… [The relationship] has come a long way, thanks to many people in this room. But there’s always more work to do with developing relationships.”
Mayor Robertson noted that business leaders in Vancouver are eager to reach out to their counterparts in Guangzhou to learn how to tackle infrastructure challenges – like controlling the movement of traffic and building light-rail to accommodate a growing population – while further developing water resources. “We have a lot to learn from people in Guangzhou,” he added.
According to the 2011 census of Canada, Vancouver’s population is around 603,502. In contrast, Guangzhou is home to around 8.5 million people, UN data stated.
In turn, Mayor Robertson encouraged Guangzhou-based leaders to tap into Vancouver, one of the strongest economies in Canada. “Entrepreneurship and innovation have brought people to Vancouver – this built our economy,” he said.
Technology leads the way in Vancouver, Mayor Robertson continued. The city is strong in digital media and green technology, and is a major player in natural resources. Vancouver also has the largest port in Canada, and an easily accessible international airport for both tourists and business travellers.
“So many cultures in Vancouver live in harmony,” Mayor Robertson added. “[Vancouver] is a welcoming place for the Chinese to do business.”
Mayor Chen noted the historical ties between Canada and China, and how Norman Bethune, a doctor born in Ontario, had an impact on Sino-Canadian relations. Bethune saved millions of Chinese soldiers’’ lives as battlefield surgeon in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War in the 1940s. China has commemorated the Canadian doctor’s memory by teaching about his medical practices in schools, and devoting numerous shrines to him throughout China.
Other highlights of the second Canada and China Economic and Finance Forum included opening remarks by H.E. Liu Fei, the consulate-general of the People’s Republic of China in Vancouver, and a signing ceremony and cultural presentation during a three-course dinner.
William Zhu(朱铭烜), president and CEO of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (Canada), or ICBC, presented a keynote address underlining bilateral trade relations between Canada and China.
“Canada has pioneers, and takes risks,” Zhu said during his keynote address. “Canada is prepared to have Asia as a trading partner, as financial institutions create the most important partnerships.”
“The world is changing,” he continued. “China will fill the gap, and create opportunities in Canada. We are looking forward to the future.”
Caifu Magazine, along with the province of British Columbia, ICBC and HSBC, hosted the first Canada and China Economic and Finance Forum in June 2014 at the Fairmount Pacific Rim in Vancouver. Participants included Christy Clark, B.C. premier, Teresa Wat, B.C. minister of international trade, Yuanzheng Cao, Bank of China’s chief economist and Xing Yujing, secretary general of the People’s Bank of China’s monetary policy committee.
The first forum accelerated the establishment of a Canada-based offshore, virtual renminbi hub – the first trading centre of its kind in North America.