The contributors in this section all share the view that Asia is central to Canada’s prosperity and economic future. The challenge is how to accelerate development of the economic, cultural and social links between Canada and Asia that will ensure that Canada plays a key role in the Asian century that is upon us. These are not old-style, bilateral relationships. They are dynamic, multi-stranded ties: Canada needs to establish itself at the heart of Asia as a hub nation, a facilitator and a source of new ideas, not just a traditional trading partner or resource provider.
For the past 250 years, Canada’s deep and mutually beneficial economic links with its superpower neighbour to the south have stood as a cornerstone of our growth and prosperity. While the US will continue to be a major economic partner and critical ally for Canada, its hegemonic days are likely over. Over the decades to come, real growth rates in the west (with its aging populations, high debt, and slowing productivity growth) will continue to lag the east. Canada must therefore build links with the rising powers of Asia – in particular with China and India – as deep as those with its neighbour to the south.
The re-emergence of China as a global power is a subject that has found its way into the boardroom deliberations of corporate Canada and dinner conversations of Canadian families. Chinese-made goods dominate our stores and the fact that China is the world’s second largest economy is now widely recognized by Canadians.
For future historians it is a safe bet that the biggest story of the first decade of the 21st century will be the re-emergence of Asia – not 9/11 or the global financial crisis. The vertiginous numbers accompanying Asia’s roaring re-emergence inspire mixed reactions in the West: mostly fear and greed, but occasionally hope.