Few Canadians Feel Warmly Towards Asia’s Rising Powers, Poll Finds

Toronto, ON – April 14, 2011 – Even though jobs and the economy are very much part of the current election campaigning, a new opinion poll released today by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada (APF Canada, www.asiapacific.ca) suggests that Canadians are reluctant to embrace the global economic shift towards Asia as an opportunity for Canada.

While 66% of Canadians believe the influence of China will surpass that of the US in 10 years, the number of Canadians that view the rise of China as more of an opportunity than a threat has dropped from 60% in 2008 to 43% in 2011.  The poll results suggest that Canadians are turning inward, away from greater engagement with the world, including the rising powers of Asia.

A majority of Canadians view the Chinese economy as second in importance only to the United States, and ahead of the EU. 76 percent, however, are opposed to a Chinese state-owned entity taking a majority stake in a Canadian company.

“There is a yawning discrepancy between the sentiments that Canadians have for Asian countries and the role that they see Asia playing in Canada’s economic future,” said Mr. Yuen Pau Woo, President and CEO of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.

Only one in ten Canadians feels warmly towards China, India, South Korea and Southeast Asia, compared to 50 percent who are favorably disposed towards the United Kingdom, and about 40 percent who feel warmly about France.  Yet, more than 60 percent agree that Asian economies are vital for Canada’s well-being and a majority of Canadians support greater investment from Asia and investment by Canadian firms in Asia.   Tellingly, only 26 percent of Canadians see Canada as part of the Asia Pacific region, compared to over 50 percent who see the country as part of the North Atlantic.  The percentage of Canadians who see Canada as part of the Asia Pacific region has fallen from 30 percent in 2008.

“In an election campaign that has largely been devoid of discussion on international issues, the poll findings suggest an urgent need for political leadership on a Canadian response to the shift in global power towards Asia.  It is not enough to give lip service to the notion that Canada is an Asia Pacific nation. There is an urgent need for improved awareness, greater activity, and better policy,” said Mr. Woo.  “We need a national conversation on Asia to better equip Canadians to respond to the rise of Asia, and to make Canada more fully a part of the Asia Pacific region.”

He added: “The nearly 3.7 million Canadians of Asian heritage will be interested to hear from their political leaders about diplomatic and commercial strategies that connect their professional and family lives in Canada to the many dynamic economies in Asia.”

Other findings from the study include:

  • 71% of British Columbians and Albertans see Asian economies as vital to Canadian prosperity compared to 51% of Quebecers.
  •  Younger Canadians (40 and under) are significantly more likely to see China and other Asian countries such as India and South Korea as important to Canada’s prosperity.
  • Half of BC and Alberta residents would like to see more teaching about Asia and Asian languages in schools compared to only 39% nationally.
  • British Columbians are five times as likely to see Canada as part of the Asia Pacific region as Quebeckers, and three times as much as Ontarians.
  • 66% of Canadians believe that promoting human rights in Asia should be a government priority. At the same time, Canadians who feel the human rights situation in China has improved in the last decade outnumber those who feel that it has deteriorated.

The survey was conducted online on behalf of APF Canada by Angus Reid Public Opinion between February 15 and 23, 2011. In all, 2,926 Canadians participated in the survey resulting in a margin of error of 1.8 per cent, 19 times out of 20. Oversamples were used in Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Atlantic Canada in order to provide more robust comparisons between provinces.  Results were then weighted to ensure the sample was representative of Canada’s population in the aggregate. The 2011 National Opinion Poll was produced in part with the support of Western Economic Diversification Canada. 

Full results of the poll can be found at http://www.asiapacific.ca/surveys/national-opinion-polls/2011-national-opinion-poll-canadian-views-asia


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About APF Canada
The Asia Pacific Foundation is an independent resource for Canadians on contemporary Asia and Canada-Asia relations. As a national not-for-profit organization established by an Act of the Federal Parliament in 1984, the Foundation brings together people and knowledge to provide the most current and comprehensive research, analysis and information on Asia and on Canada's transpacific relations.

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