The shifting global economy will see China become a bigger factor in the way business and trade is conducted by Albertans.
This was the topic of discussion in a public forum organized by the University of Calgary's communication and culture faculty in partnership with Alberta Global Forum and held at the Glenbow museum Oct. 2.
The forum, "In the Eye of the Dragon: Will China Drive Alberta's Economy?" consisted of a panel of experts discussing the significance of China's emergence and how it would affect Alberta.
"The Canadian response to Asia, particularly China, is increasingly set here in Alberta," said University of British Columbia professor and Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada co-CEO Dr. Paul Evans. "It's set here . . . because [of] the political impact of Alberta on the national scene in Canada, where many of our leaders in Ottawa have roots in Alberta and see the world in some interesting ways as a result and also because of the nature of the economy."
Oil and gas dominated Alberta supplies the U.S. with much of its energy.
Engineer and AC Capital president Alan Chan said that with the uncertain future of the U.S. economy, China, as the world's second largest oil consumer, is poised to become an even larger customer of Alberta's energy.
"The demand for oil consumption in China grows about four per cent a year," said Chan. "It accounts for 25 per cent of the global increase for oil demand."
But it isn't just China that stands to benefit from Alberta's natural resources. Alberta also imports from China valued labour.
A shortfall of 100,000 workers over the next 10 years is forcasted in Alberta. Most of these jobs will be filled by immigrants through the Temporary Foreign Worker program.
"We receive about 40 per cent of all our new arrivals from China," said U of C anthropology professor Dr. Josephine Smart. "Most of whom arrive as independent immigrants, which means that they come with education, economic resources and international connection in that part of the world."
With these increased connections will come the possibility of more opportunities for widespread trading with China-- an area ATB Financial senior economist Todd Hirsch said needs improvement.
"Alberta's trade with China is growing," he said. "I've seen the numbers, but it's still miniscule compared to our trade with the U.S. I don't know if the Alberta-China trade is on the minds of most people in Alberta. We understand that we're getting a lot of consumer goods from China, but I don't know if people really understand that it's really very small-- still a small sliver."
Evans cited the main barrier to forging lasting and meaningful trade relations with China stems from the lack of initiative at the federal level.