The program is called Experience the Future because the decisions that China makes over the next generation will have a profound impact upon the world.
In January this year China surpassed the US to become the world’s largest trading nation. And because of its rapid development over the past thirty years, it is now the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the world’s largest car producer, the world’s largest exporter, but also the world’s largest producer of renewable energy, and it runs the world’s largest high speed railway network.
The key question that China faces over the next generation is whether it can create a path of development and modernization that does not have the same environmental impact and carbon intensity as the path of industrialization that the West has followed over the past 300 years. The Western model, if applied wholesale to China, would be an environmental disaster not only for China but for the whole world.
The second key question that China faces is whether or not it can achieve its ambition of territorial integrity without war with Japan. China is on a long and slow quest to regain control over those territories that were taken by foreign powers. Hong Kong was returned in 1997, Macau in 1999. In 2008 Britain recognized China’s claim to full sovereignty over Tibet. Taiwan, formerly under Japanese control, is still divided from the mainland. And China is starting to build a large modern navy with a view to reclaiming control over the disputed Senkaku islands in the Pacific and the Spratly islands in the South China Sea, as it did with the formerly Vietnamese Paracel islands in 1974.
It is essential that the next generation of Canadian leaders are not only acquainted with China’s rise to prominence in the 21st century but have practical experience of China’s people, its culture and its astonishing development.