Gordon Houlden, director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta
(Edmonton) With the release of its annual fall survey on China, the University of Alberta’s China Institute again shows itself as a valuable national resource for federal and provincial governments engaging with the growing Asian country.
Its director, Gordon Houlden, says the institute aims to increase understanding of China. And with the latest survey providing insight into Albertans’ views on a range of issues from doing business with China to learning its language, he says it can help governments shape their policies toward China.
“There’s no substitute for a scientifically conducted, rigorous survey on a particular package of issues, in this case involving China, to give us some data about the actual views of Albertans,” said Houlden, who last week was named to the Alberta government’s Asia Advisory Council. “It’s important for policy makers in particular to understand the complexity and nuances of Albertans’ views.”
Houlden notes that the results from this survey offer a snapshot at a particular time rather than a blueprint for action, but he says they can serve as a guide for policy makers.
“I would not expect governments to follow the tides and winds of surveys in determining their policies; this is simply background information, which can help with their decisions and be useful to governments in terms of the views of Albertans.”
This is the second year the institute has conducted the survey.
“We don’t ask precisely the same questions every year, but we will return to the same questions on a periodic basis so that we can provide a standard by which we can see the evolving views of Albertans on various issues,” Houlden said. “We hope it’s widely read—people should be cautious about drawing conclusions from one or two bits or pieces of it. This isn’t a straitjacket for policy makers, because public opinion can be fickle. Public opinion evolves, and we’d like to chart that.”
This year’s survey, which was administered by the University of Alberta’s Population Research Laboratory, queried 1,210 people across the province. Responses to the 10 questions were diverse, but one area of agreement among Albertans was on the Chinese language.
“One of the great disappointments is that while Albertans, for the most part, value the trade relationship, they don’t see knowledge of Chinese language as necessary to conducting business with China,” Houlden said. “China is going to play an increasingly important role in our lives in the 21st century. It’s not a question of like or dislike. It’s simply a reality that’s coming. And the better we prepare ourselves to deal with that—promote our economic opportunities and understand this complex country—the better Alberta will be served.”
China Institute: Alberta Survey 2012
China Institute: Alberta Survey 2011