There may be friction between the Canadian and Chinese governments, but a student exchange between Wolf Creek Public Schools and a district in China is a continuing success.
In March, 24 students from Wolf Creek went to China for two weeks, and 15 Chinese students arrived in central Alberta in early February for a five-month stay.
Canada-China relations have deteriorated since December, when the RCMP arrested Huawei senior executive Meng Wanzhouin in Vancouver at the behest of the United States.
China was outraged by Meng’s arrest and has since detained two Canadians on allegations of espionage and sentenced two other Canadians to death on drug-related convictions.
China is also blocking Canadian canola exports, saying pests were found in shipments.
“Quite frankly, there was no discussion about the political situation between China and Canada while we were there, which was surprising in some ways, because it’s very prominent here in the media and in conversations,” said Wolf Creek superintendent Jayson Lovell.
“Every place we went, our delegation was warmly welcomed.”
He said while other schools cancelled their trips to China, Wolf Creek school board decided to proceed.
The district of Li Wan in Guangzhou that students visited for the first time in March is also the only region with a special designation by the Chinese government when it comes to exchanges, he said.
Li Wan is one of 10 districts in Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong province, which is China’s most populated province with 110 million people.
Alberta Education has had a memorandum of understanding with Guangdong since 2004. The Alberta government and Guangdong also signed a sister-province relationship agreement in 2017 to strengthen ties and facilitate trade and cultural links.
Lovell said students were welcomed graciously by the Chinese families they stayed with during their visit.
“The families and the people we interacted with, they want what’s best for their children, just like we want what’s best for our children.
“The opportunity was one of a very open and welcoming experience, and I honestly cannot think of a trip that we’ve had with our students that went as well,” the superintendent said.
He said another group of students hopes to visit China next March.
— With files from The Canadian Press