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By Sarah Lasch
A Canadian college will be the first foreign educational institution created in mainland China.
The Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology in Toronto is part of a Canadian initiative to open schools in the Chinese cities of Beijing and Guangzho, said Nick Huang, director of Seneca's International Department and part of Team Canada's trade mission.
He said the move is significant because it will be the first foreign campus ever to open in China.
"After China changed to the open door policy they let in businesses but not education, so the people here have not yet been exposed to any other education from different cultures," Huang said.
Thoren Hudyma, press officer from the Office of the Prime Minister, said this announcement will benefit both countries by strengthening existing links between their university communities.
Hudyma stressed the importance of research collaboration between the Canadian-Chinese university system, adding the expertise of Canadian universities in information and communication were essential for the opening.
However, Erin George, Ontario chairperson for the Canadian Students Federation, said she is concerned about the partnership. "It's problematic for Canada to engage in trade with a country with an abysmal human rights record like China, whether it be in businesses or services like education.
"Every foreign investment which pours into China lessens the pressure to correct human rights violation and legitimizes these abuses," she said.
George said students should put pressure on the Canadian government to treat human right violators differently. "A slap on the wrist does not make any difference in the day to day life of the citizens. Continuing to pour money into their economy is not sending the right message," she said.
"The real question we need to ask is, 'Are we providing education for education's sake and for the benefit of students or is it for profit?' I suspect the latter," George added.
Huang agreed with the principle of protecting human rights, but said he took a different approach to Canada's connection with China.
"We are bringing westernized curriculum to China, where they have not been exposed to these ideas. We will be educating the Chinese public about the Western approach which encourages free enterprise, freedom of speech and so on. We are indirectly opening the minds of Chinese youth and not saying it's a better way, just another way," he said.
"Canadian and Chinese cultures are very different. We will teach them who we are and how we do business. They can then decide for themselves which philosophy to take with them," Huang said.
He added immediate profit is possible, but should not be considered a bad thing and will help to improve education in Canada and Canadian institutions.