Gift to UAlberta's China Institute advances Asia-Canada understanding

Donation creates first Canadian centre devoted to cross-cultural cooperation

Niall McKenna - 20 August 2018

Canada's links with Asia have been given a boost thanks to a 10-year investment in the University of Alberta's China Institute, Canada's only research centre focused exclusively on China-Canada relations and China studies.

A donation through a foundation created by Hong Kong businessman and U of A honorary degree recipient Jonathan Koon-Shum Choi, '15 LLD (Honorary), will connect the U of A to a growing number of cultural centres established by Dr. Choi in Vietnam, France and Japan.

The Jonathan KS Choi Cultural Centre of Canada, to be housed at the university's China Institute, will provide space for students, researchers, business leaders and policy-makers to meet and collaborate - physically and virtually.

"This new centre represents our shared commitment to promoting cultural cooperation and our mutual belief that education has the power to build bridges between people and nations," says U of A president David H. Turpin. "Dr. Choi's gift strengthens the U of A's academic and research involvement with China, which has been active for almost 40 years."

The U of A has 140 active agreements with Chinese universities, government agencies and corporations, while more than half of its 7,000 international students are from China - the largest proportion of any Canadian university.

Dr. Choi is the longtime head of the Sunwah Group, an international conglomerate that distributes seafood and other foods, as well as operating financial services, real estate, technology, infrastructure, media and education companies in Asia, Canada, the United States and Australia. Dr. Choi has created two foundations - the Sunwah Foundation and Jonathan KS Choi Foundation - with the aim of building cultural understanding, peace and prosperity between nations.

"We are building bridges between countries to support partnerships that will grow the strength of each of the parties in advancing intercultural relationships and fostering international co-operation," Dr. Choi says. "These partnerships will advance education and understanding between people and nations, providing a level of cooperation and leadership that is far-reaching and forward-looking."

"An effective and harmonious dialogue between East and West demands that we build people-to-people links," says U of A's China Institute director, Gordon Houlden. "Dr. Choi's generous gift creates the space and the opportunities young people need to meet and learn from each other."

The Jonathan KS Choi Cultural Centre builds on the work of Dr. Choi's other charitable work, including the creation of the Sunwah Foundation's Global Young Leaders Network. With chapters in eight Asian countries and regions, the United Kingdom and now Canada, the youth network builds leadership skills and fosters community service. Students and graduates of the U of A's Peter Lougheed Leadership College are establishing the network's second Canadian chapter.

Delane Linkiewich, who received the Peter Lougheed Leadership College certificate in interdisciplinary leadership studies in June 2018, is helping to spearhead the U of A Global Young Leaders Network chapter. After graduating from the U of A's undergraduate psychology program next year, Ms. Linkiewich plans to pursue graduate studies in clinical psychology so she can help people overcome the struggles of living with chronic pain. Ms. Linkiewich says the youth network will allow her to meet leaders from around the world, hopefully opening doors to understand how different cultures approach mental health and chronic pain management.

"Chronic pain, like a lot of issues, is not just a Canadian problem - it's a global problem. And to tackle global problems, we, as young leaders, need opportunities to connect and build meaningful relationships," Ms. Linkiewich says.

"I'm very grateful to Dr. Choi because he is giving us the space to meet, to share ideas and collaborate."