Coupling Canadian growth companies to Chinese growth opportunities in Guangzhou and Guangdong Province

By Michael Darch

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The start of the modern Chinese economy was in Guangzhou and Guangdong province. This is where the manufacturing sector in Hong Kong slowly moved as restrictions in China eased.  With the return of Hong Kong to China’s governance in 1997, the flow of manufacturing enterprises became a tidal wave. The region remains a critical player in the Chinese economy and a key gateway to the world.

The links to Canada are longstanding and deep. The Canadian Consul General in Guangzhou, Weldon Epp, notes that Chinese emigration to Canada began over 200 years ago. The region remains a prime source of emigration to Canada, establishing meaningful human connections exemplified by the province-to-province links between British Columbia and Guangdong and the sister city linking of Guangzhou and Vancouver.

Jian Yu Deputy Director General of the Guangdong Science and Technology Department reiterates that the region remains a pillar for the Chinese economy, accounting for one fifth of the national GDP. From its initial roots in consumer goods, it has moved strongly into technology, evidenced by its being home to the largest number of high technology zones in China. With the emphasis on innovation and outbound investment in China’s latest five-year plan, there is a growing emphasis on going global and increased cooperation in high technology, making the arrival of the Consider Canada City Alliance very timely.

Bruce Lazenby, CEO Invest Ottawa signs Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in Guangzhou

Once again our challenge in attracting trade and investment was driven home. With our meeting partner being in Science and Technology, the companies we met are tended to be smaller and much more focussed on innovative/leading technologies. As we got down details, we heard about the partnerships that are being established in Europe and the United States. Canada? They were impressed by the value proposition that we presented, but frankly admitted that Canada has not been on their radar screen. That said, they responded well to the power of 11 Canadian cities working together.

A message that Invest Ottawa’s CEO Bruce Lazenby delivered in his presentation on ICT was that Canada’s innovation and knowledge of supply chains coupled with China’s ability to invest and its large markets presents a win-win situation for partnership and collaboration.

Similarly in Clean Technology, Nicholas Parker, Co-founder and Executive Chair, Cleantech Group, coined a new phrase, “G2G” which stands for “Growth to Growth”. There’s G2G synergy in coupling Canada’s growth stage companies in clean technology with the growing markets in China. Our need to push the G2G concept was reinforced as I learned that a high level delegation from Israel was in China the same time we were, promoting the match-up of Israel’s innovation capacity with the needs of growing Chinese markets. The race for G2G supremacy is obviously on!   

It was a long but productive week. The Canadians have come home with leads to follow up on and deeper knowledge of the China opportunity – one that is immense, and worthy of the efforts being put forward by the Consider Canada City Alliance.

(Michael Darch is the founding President of Consider Canada City Alliance Inc.)