Making Friends: Annapolis County trip to China about culture, education, economics

Lawrence Powell editor@annapolisspectator.ca
Published on January 8, 2017

Annapolis County Warden Timothy Habinski has already received a gift from one of the host cities he will be visiting in China – a long tapestry on a wooden spool. When he goes to China to visit four communities, he will bring gifts as well – four commissioned and hand-carved Native American flutes. He leaves for China Jan. 12.

©Lawrence Powell

ANNAPOLIS ROYAL - Annapolis County Warden Timothy Habinski is heading to China Thursday, Jan. 12 in a 10-day friendship visit that is expected to result in this part of Nova Scotia becoming the temporary home to many Chinese students.

“The trip has really been organized by one Chinese business person who has interests here in Nova Scotia,” said Habinski. “He has been responsible for bringing about 4,000 students from China to study here in Nova Scotia since 2004. And he has a particular interest in Annapolis County.”

 

The man in question is David Wang, a Canadian, with extensive educational interests in China and Canada. He owns and operates the Sino-Canada High School in Suzhou, China. Premier Stephen McNeil visited the school in August of 2016.

 

“He wants to send more students here, and each student who comes here represents an infusion of about $25,000 into the local economy because they are paying to participate in the program.”

And they bring their families with them, said Habinski.

“Their families stay here while they are taking part in the program. They want a true English immersion experience.”

 

Saint Mary’s

 

“As the manager of a Nova Scotia curriculum high school in China, Mr. Wang liaises with the Nova Scotia Department of Education to better prepare students for university studies in our province, and elsewhere in Canada,” said Peter MacLellan, the past president of the Digby and Area Board of Trade who went to Quzhou, China with Wang in September.

“I was invited to Quzhou and Confucius’ 2765th birthday celebrations as advisor to the Confucius Institute at Saint Mary's University,” MacLellan, a friend of David Wang, said.

“In April of 2016 Mr. Wang presented a $1 million gift to Saint Mary’s University in Halifax to establish the David Wang Scholarship Fund,” MacLellan said. “The fund will establish scholarships for Chinese undergraduates entering Saint Mary’s from a Nova Scotia or Canadian curriculum high school in China.”

 

Annapolis County Warden Timothy Habinski holds a book made in China depicting Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil’s visit to Suzhou last August with David Wang. Habinski heads a delegation going to China on Jan. 12. The trip includes Suzhou and three other cities. McNeil visited with China with businessman David Wang who has organized the Annapolis County visit.

©Lawrence Powell

 

The Annapolis County delegation includes Annapolis Basin Conference Centre president Beth Earle and county CAO John Ferguson. They will be visiting both Quzhou and Suzhou.

“I believe there is a very important opportunity for economic development that will be beneficial to both the communities we’ll be working with in China and to Annapolis County, and I believe the District of Digby as well,” said Ferguson. “I think the three key areas will be cultural, educational, and economic development.”

 

Ferguson said the county received invitations from four Chinese communities: Xuzhou, Suqian, Quzhou, and Suzhou.

 

 

Relationships

 

Habinski said Annapolis County is attractive to the Chinese for several reasons besides English immersion.

“They’re also fascinated by how we’ve managed to retain our cultural connections in Atlantic Canada,” he said. “This is a particular interest in China because in much of China -- that has urbanized so rapidly -- people have lost that sense of community. So they’re fascinated how with our educational systems, by our social institutions, we’ve managed to preserve those social connections and keep very healthy, vibrant communities.”

He said it’s one of the things Nova Scotians do better than virtually anywhere else in the country.

“And we’re also promoting some of our local businesses,” he said, “In particular Acadian Sea Plants, our local burgeoning wine industry,” he said. “But really, ultimately what we’re doing is creating a relationship. We’re building friendships because we believe the best way for an area this small to actually have a role to play in the global economy is not to do things on a big scale, but to do things on a small, very personal, very intimate scale.”

Habinski likes that when they go across they are going to meet people face to face.

“We’re going to invite them to come back,” he said. “We’re going to invite their students to come study here, their families to come and stay here, their businesses to see what we have here that might interest them for investment. That’s the goal.”

David Wang and Peter MacLellan at the Confucius Temple ceremonies in Quzhou, China in September. MacLellan was invited to Quzhou and Confucius’ 2765th birthday celebrations as advisor to the Confucius Institute at Saint Mary's University.

©Contributed

Partnerships

“We’re interested in building these connections, these personal relationships. This area of Nova Scotia of course is where (Samuel de) Champlain first landed, and Europeans developed the first lasting partnerships with Native North Americans – with the Mi’Kmaq,” Habinbski said. “That permitted the success of the first settlement they had at the Habitation. This is an area that makes partnerships and makes friendships.”

He said Canada’s whole history as a nation is predicated on the partnerships that were formed in Annapolis County.

“We wanted to bring a gift that would be very symbolic of that when we went to China, and so we commissioned four Native American flutes that we will be presenting as gifts to our four host cities when we arrive in China. We think it’s a very meaningful thing. A meaningful gesture that is directly connected to our history and it’s symbolic of what we’re attempting to achieve in building relationships with them.”