Albertans’ Views on China Annual Survey

Executive Summary of the 2012 Albertan Survey

In July of this year, the continued and ever-growing importance of China to the province of Alberta was highlighted in the bid by China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) for Calgary-based Nexen. As economic links between China and Canada, and China and Alberta in particular, continue to grow, it is important for government and industry decision-makers to be aware of how Albertans feel about China and particularly about trade with China.

In keeping with our findings from the 2011 survey, this year’s data again shows Albertans hold a generally favourable view of China as an important economic partner for the province. Albertans acknowledge China as a growing global power, but do not perceive this as a threatening prospect for Canada. Indeed, on the contrary, China is viewed as a stable trade partner for the province. The trade relationship between Alberta and China is most positively envisioned through the export of Alberta energy to China.

Questions concerning the issue of Chinese investment in Alberta, however, solicited more guarded responses. While Albertans are evenly split on the issue of whether partial ownership of an Alberta-based firm by Chinese investors is acceptable, they are decidedly opposed to the idea of full ownership, and are also largely adverse toward investment in Alberta by a Chinese state-owned enterprise (SOE).

While Albertans consider the trade relationship with China as important, for the most part they do not tend to regard knowledge of Chinese language as necessary in conducting business with China. Human rights considerations, however, are viewed as significant for Albertans when considering the China-Alberta trade partnership.

Variables which may have been expected to influence respondents’ views of China, such as area of residence and economic status, somewhat surprisingly, played a negligible role in how Albertans answered the survey questions. The most relevant factor in how respondents viewed China was political leaning. Wildrose supporters tend to be more cautious when it comes to China than supporters of the other major provincial parties. In addition, undecided voters are most likely to be in line with PC supporters and most widely divergent from Wildrose supporters on issues related to China.