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Interview of Consul-General Wang Xinping by Calgary Herald
2015/01/22

Fortney: Carnival China entertains, forges stronger bonds

VALERIE FORTNEY, CALGARY HERALD

Published on: January 19, 2015Last Updated: January 19, 2015 6:24 PM MST

It’s a show filled with brilliant dance moves, a live orchestra and, of course, some of the world’s finest acrobats, who tumble, juggle and perform dazzling aerial feats.

The Carnival China, though, is so much more, according to Wang Xinping.

“They are some of the best of China’s artists and cultural performers,” said Xinping, Calgary’s consul general, which represents the country of 1.3 billion souls here. “But it is also an important part of the cultural exchange between China and Canada.”

On Monday, Xinping couldn’t conceal his excitement over the Calgary stop of the 70-performer touring show. It is making its second visit in three years here on March 14, part of a cross-country tour that will also stop in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver. He wasn’t alone in his anticipation: at the Regency Palace restaurant in Calgary’s Chinatown during the lunch hour, a large area was cordoned off to announce the tour — and it was packed with more than 100 people, which included a who’s who of the city’s Chinese-Canadian community.

“This is a very big event for us,” explained Rick Mann, a local community leader, as hordes of spectators took photographs of the visiting dignitaries from both China and Canada, which also included local representation from Calgary in the form of Northern-Hills MLA Teresa Woo-Paw and Ward 4 councillor Sean Chu. “It is not just good for us to have such a major show here, it is good for all of Calgary.”

Not that Calgary’s community of Chinese-Canadians — those from China or whose origins can be traced to it — couldn’t support an event on its own. While our city’s Chinatown district boasts a population of only 1,400, it’s still the fourth-largest in Canada after Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

Add to that the close to 100,000 Chinese-Canadians residing here — making them the largest visible minority in Calgary — and you have a powerful-in-numbers community, even though it’s a small fraction of the 1.4 million Chinese-Canadians in our entire country.

Over more than a century in the city, it’s also a community that has overcome punitive laws, blatant racism and language barriers to thrive and become one of our strongest immigrant populations. In the past few years, thousands of young Chinese have chosen Alberta as their new home, drawn to the burgeoning job market in the oil and gas sector. While it’s not yet clear what impact the depressed oil prices will have on that trend, their increased numbers have helped to forge stronger social and cultural bridges between the two countries.

The strength of that community could be seen 19 months ago, when much of Chinatown was submerged from the Great Alberta flood of 2013. Hardly a single business in this neighbourhood of butcher shops, restaurants, knick-knack stores and herb sellers escaped the wrath of the flood waters.

“You saw all the co-operation, everyone pulling together,” said Man of his tight-knit community. “We really helped one another out.”

Chinese New Year 2015, then — The Year of the Sheep falls on Feb. 19 — is one that he expects will be a particularly celebratory one.

“It is a great time for the city, to connect with its Chinese-Canadian community.”

Over the past decade, the economic ties between the two countries, especially in Alberta, have become a topic of much interest and oftentimes debate.

“China has invested more than $50 billion US in Canada over the past 10 years,” Xinping said. “About $40 billion of that is in Alberta and Saskatchewan alone.”

Much of that financial focus, of course, has been centred around Alberta’s oilsands. Even with the precipitous drop in oil prices, Xinping insisted that will change little in the ongoing relationship.

“We are not here for the short-term,” he said. “We look at Alberta and Saskatchewan as long-term, stable partners.”

That partnership includes everything from exchanges that see Calgarians like fashion designer Paul Hardy showing his wares in China, to local initiatives showcasing the Chinese-Canadian community at events such as the Calgary Stampede, as well as such one-off events as the Carnival China stop on March 14 (visit ticketmaster.com for ticket prices and info).

Teresa Woo-Paw is among the many on this day extolling the virtues of those stronger ties.

“We are a vibrant community with a long history in Alberta,” she said. “The economic ties are important, but equally important is education, research and culture. Tours like the Carnival China will help to forge those bonds and encourage our young people to become stronger global citizens.”

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