Broadly speaking, Albertans in the newest survey view China in an increasingly more positive light. Three fifths of Albertans (60%) want to build stronger ties with the China while half of Albertans (49%) think China’s increasing economic strength benefits Alberta.
Majority support in key areas means there is increased space for China-Canada ties to develop especially with relation to market diversification: four fifths (79%) of the province’s respondents recognize China as an important export market for the province’s goods and services, three fifths (59%) would like to see Alberta decrease its economic reliance on the United States, and three quarters (76%) would like to see Alberta’s economy diversify by way of increased trade with Asia.
Belief that a free trade agreement between Canada and China would benefit the Albertan economy is strong in Alberta, with three in five (56%) of respondents viewing a Canada-China FTA as positive for the economy. Perhaps this past year’s shifts in the public’s awareness of a potential FTA with China, have combined with concerns regarding the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the challenges facing the Alberta economy to grow support among Albertans in favour of a Canada-China FTA; in summer of 2016, the China Institute’s 2016 Alberta Survey found that only two in five (44%) of Albertans wanted the Canadian government to negotiate a FTA with China.
While support for energy exports has historically been high in Alberta, it still rose by 11% from 2015, with 76% supporting the building of the necessary midstream infrastructure to allow energy exports to Asia.
With regard to Chinese investment, 48% of respondents support Chinese investment in general, while 51% support it in the energy sector specifically, up 5% and 9% respectively from 2015. This is the highest recorded percentage of support for Chinese investment into the energy sector since we began polling in 2011.
However, it cannot be ignored that there are still substantial segments of the Albertan public who oppose Chinese investment in general (24% opposed) ,investment into the energy and resource sectors (22% opposed), and who doubt that a FTA with China would be of benefit to Alberta (18%).
It appears a majority of Albertans continue to understand that China plays an important role in the economic future; Continued support for Canada-China ties appears likely given two of the report’s findings: three fifths (58%) of Albertans already see China as important for Albertans’ future opportunities, a number we can expect to grow given the four fifths (79%) who want to encourage Albertan students to develop knowledge and skills with regard to Asia.