SUNDAY MORNING EDITORIAL — The Chinese province of Guangdong announced this week the opening of a trade office in Vancouver.
As outlined in a B.C. government media release, it was one of several announcements made during Guangdong Governor Zhu Xiaodan’s visit to B.C. Also announced were plans for celebrating the 20th anniversary of the sister-province relationship between B.C. and Guangdong, and a memorandum of understanding between the B.C. government and the Guangdong Sub-Council of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade.
Premier Christy Clark called it “another milestone in the rich history” of the relationship between B.C. and Guangdong. Many of us never knew the relationship even existed, let alone for 20 years.
The opening of a trade office is significant. It establishes an on-the-ground link that could result in important investment opportunities between the two partners. Guangdong has 100 million people and a GDP of $1 trillion.
While there may be legitimate concerns about the ramifications of increasing reliance on China within Canada’s economy, there’s no question of the direct economic benefits. Yet as B.C. and Guangdong strengthen ties, and several cities have Sister City relationships with cities in China (Prince George, for example, has been pursuing a sister city relationship with Jiangmen and already has relationships with three others, Kamloops seems to have let an opportunity slip through its fingers.
Kamloops led the way with a business-based friendship agreement with the city of Chiangping (a suburb of Beijing) in 2004 but it has withered on the vine from neglect. Chiangping is a major technology centre and is also rich in culture, and includes part of the Great Wall. While a number of delegations went back and forth in earlier years, there has been no obvious activity for some time.
If done poorly, such relationships can be a waste of time and money. If done well, they can reap rewards. The B.C.-Guangdong situation illustrates that.