Canada, China face similar challenges
With obvious differences such as the size of their populations, type of governments and economies aside, Canada and China share similarities in sustaining prosperity and dealing with development risks.
At a recent session of Talking Economics, a series of economic talks hosted by the Canadian embassy in Beijing aimed at promoting economic cooperation between the two countries, Meric Gertler, a Canadian scholar and president of the University of Toronto, raised a question for both Canada and China: Where will our future prosperity come from?
Chinese economists and scholars joined the discussion, and Canadian Ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques also attended.
Gerlter pointed out that in the past two years Canadians learned once again how dangerous it is to rely too heavily on a single source for growth and prosperity. Plunging oil prices and a shrinking auto market have affected the recovery of Canada’s economy.
“Currency fluctuations alone will not revive the Canadian automotive sector,” said Gerlter. “China might be asking a similar question, though here many of the major indicators have a different tenor,” he said, adding that China’s economy led by urbanization is buffeted from some serious problems.
Gertler has served as an adviser to local, regional and national governments in Canada, the United States and Europe, as well as to international agencies such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the European Union.
One of the great drivers of China’s becoming the world’s second-largest economy has been unprecedented urbanization. Three decades ago, 80 percent of China’s population was rural. Today, 600-plus cities are home to nearly 54 percent of the country’s population.
But with China’s economic transformation have come problems, pollution.
Gertler said China has not tapped the huge potential of urbanization, and he suggested that cities in China could learn from Toronto’s success in building financial and biomedical industries.
“Cities are privileged sites for innovation, entrepreneurship, and the flourishing of ideas and opportunities,” said Gertler. “The world’s most innovative regions host ecosystems where scientists, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and industry leaders translate research into prosperity. Stimulating business investment in R&D is a critically important element of innovation policy.”
He said that Canada and China need to foster more international collaboration at the university, industrial and municipal levels.
Canadian Ambassador Saint-Jacques said that cities in China and elsewhere that want to become “great global cities” will increasingly need to ensure that building blocks are in place for them to become hubs of innovation and generators of prosperity. “Indeed, it will be these `smart’ global cities – which foster ingenuity and entrepreneurship, and which stimulate the development of new ideas and products – that will ultimately yield the strongest opportunities,” he said.
Canadian Ambassador Saint-Jacques( right) and Dr Gertler at the economic conversation at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing.