Meeting with Aaron Chu, Director United Strangers

Our final day in Guangzhou was full of excitement as we raced from one end of the city to another. Cathy, Andrew and I had just come from Sun Yat-sen University, named after the Republic of China’s first president. It was a beautiful day as we set off for our meeting with Aaron Chu, Director of United Strangers in an industrial area of the city. We had met Aaron the day before at the Consulate office in Guangzhou; he told us what it is like being a successful Canadian entrepreneur in southern China.

The United Strangers office and showroom was located in an extremely compelling part of the industrial area in Guangzhou. The surrounding area had been revitalized from an old can factory to an urban, scenic shopping location. Aaron’s shop displayed variety of products that they ship to clients all around the world. He also explained to us how many of his products come from recycled materials such as the decks out of old fishing boats. These boat parts would be used to create tables, chairs, shelves and other household items. His shop contained a variety of other products ranging from knapsacks to lamps and painted art.

At this meeting Aaron was able to put me in contact with a clothing manufacturer as part of my mandate from Saint Mary’s University Students Association. I have been in contact with the manufacturer and we will be set to do business in the coming months. I was extremely pleased to have made a solid connection with a Chinese company. However, my biggest takeaway from this day goes far beyond the connection that was made.

This meeting with Aaron inspired me as a young Canadian. It was amazing to see this wonderful niche market that Aaron, someone who was living a similar life to me about a decade ago, was able to tap into. Hearing his presentation was good, seeing the small, growing empire he created brought an entirely new perspective to the way I now perceive entrepreneurship in China.

Three Shades of Guangzhou - 2006, 2010, 2013

Guangzhou, China - For many in Canada the name evokes confusion, a rather odd response in a country which is home to 1.3 million people from the Pearl River Delta. It is even more surprising so many know so little about this place when you consider Guangzhou is officially home to 13 million people, and the cities which ring it (within 2 hours) are home to another 71 million. Or as many people as live in Florida, New York, and California combined. It is a city which I first visited with Global Vision in 2006, and subsequently visited again in 2010 and 2013. To say Guangzhou is an indicator gauge for the growth story in China does not do justice to just how much has changed in 7 years.

I still remember the first time I stepped out of the Guangzhou East Railway station - home of the Hong Kong-Guangzhou through train, a station slated for replacement in 2013. The air was thick, it was raining and of course the sky was brick brown from all of the low end low value manufacturing taking place in the city and its immediate vicinity. The traffic was horrendous, and many of the roads were dirt - made muddy from all of the rain - and with the exception of CITIC tower (CITIC is a large Chinese bank based in Guangzhou) there was little in the way of tall buildings. This made the 80 story tower look particularly out of place in this city which looked to be part construction zone, part industrial wasteland.

As for mass public transit in 2006 - forget it - the metro was "under construction" - with four small lines it was hardly adequate to serve 13 million people. In meeting with city officials they proudly discussed their grand plans, as did the businesses - including Jade and Company, and HJM Asia law - both of which we met that rainy Guangzhou day. I have to say the team at the time was left slightly skeptical an entire modern city could be built in a decade - let alone one for 13 million people.

In 2010 we undertook to visit Guangzhou with a team for a second time. Once again the connections built on the first mission with Jade and HJM were relied upon to help teach a new generation of young Canadians about business in Guangzhou. On the day we were leaving Beijing to fly into Guangzhou - I made sure to prepare myself, and my team for the Guangzhou I remembered - a disorganized place (or so I thought) where we would have to be prepared to rough it.

Anyone reading this who was living in or visited Guangzhou in 2010 would understand I was in for an earth shattering shock - the Guangzhou I visited in 2006 was more or less gone. Thousands of architecturally interesting tall buildings dotted the sky as we cruised into the city - again on a famous rainy Guangzhou day - on a brand new state of the art expressway with traffic signals designed to alert drivers of traffic jams and allow them to divert around them. Not only that the city had an efficient, and functioning metro system with over 150 KM of track, and 6 long operating lines with another in the trial phase.

Some features from 2006 did however remain, there was a large amount of garbage, debris and some general untidiness especially when it came to the area around the waterfront. By 2013 - when we visited last week - I expected the city to have changed greatly - and it had. Not only were there many new buildings and features on the skyline - but the highway system was even better than I had remembered. And a couple more lines, and another 100 KM of track had opened on the metro system. As for that dirty waterfront, the debris and general dirtiness? It had given way to tree lined boulevards, and granite walkways lined both sides of the pearl river.

Notably the air quality had improved on both of these subsequent visits. An indication of the move up the manufacturing value chain which had taken place in the region. No more is Guangzhou a city of the made in China plastic toy or undergarments - it is a modern high end manufacturing centre building complex products from pressure washers to cars.

Upon explaining these contrasts to the students we brought with us from Canada - none of whom had ever been to Guangzhou before - myself and Terry received looks of confusion and disbelief. It was quite apparent they did not believe this gorgeous city could have been anything different less than a decade ago. In the Canada such development would be impossible - Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver have all embarked on mass transit projects to build single lines - all took decades to build or are still not complete 10 years later.

In short its hard to believe something until you see it for yourself, and in the case of many Canadians the extent of their exposure to the Chinese economic progress is the large quantity of goods originating from China. They have not had the opportunity to witness the leaps and bounds by which the economy has grown on the ground, and the extent to which life has dramatically improved for millions of people. While many are now talking of a "China slowdown" the reality is it does not hold water as a story, the situation on the ground is such that it is clear the economy is still booming. What is also clear is China is so large any economic statistic regarding it should be taken with a grain of salt, and probably disregarded - as the country is so large many "leading economic indicators" are simply immeasurable.

Adam Dewar is a JTC 2006 Graduate (China, and Hong Kong SAR) who holds a degree in Economics from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. He has worked as a Project Manager for Global Vision since 2009 working as part of the "A" team on numerous projects including: MY SUMMIT 2010 G8 - G20, 2011 Inter American Development Bank Summit, 2011 APEC Summit, and trade missions to Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Panama, Ecuador, and Colombia.

Komaspec Asia - Factory Visit & Briefing

On our first day in Ghangzhou, China, Junior Team Canada had the opportunity to see first-hand how a Canadian entrepreneur had found success in Asia. Six years ago, Maxime Bérubé and Francis Gervais were college graduates who had little capital to start a business. Today, Komaspec is a 12,500 square-foot factory that manufactures over 800 different products annually for clients from industries around the world.

Turnkey manufacturing describes a complete manufacturing function that manages all manufacturing and supply chain services, including material acquisition, assembly, test, and aftermarket service and warranty support. Komaspec chose a turnkey model right from the start, because they recognized that the niche market of innovative gadgets would drive their business model, instead of the mass-produced simple-to-make items.

As cost of labor increase in Asia the demand for the type of goods naturally shifts as well. 10 years ago, almost all the world’s demand on Asian manufacturing was in mass-produced, low quality goods. Today, there is a shift towards higher quality and customized products. As a result, this shift creates a demand that traditional Chinese companies cannot fulfill, and an entry point for SMEs like Komaspec to succeed.

“The more complex the design, the more of a competitive advantage we have.” says Bérubé. During our tour of the factory, we witnessed the manufacturing process of a container for stem cells, a revolutionary gaming device, and an innovative snow plow developed by a Quebec company.

Bérubé stressed the importance of finding the “right” opportunity and focusing one’s efforts. Serving a niche market in contract manufacturing, Komaspec has achieved its mission of being the fastest and most competitive operation in its field and is a leading model for others to follow.

by Richard Sookraj and James Sun, Junior Team Canada Ambassadors

To learn more about Komaspec, visit

ICT Sector Summary

Sector Summary: Information & Communication Technologies in South Asia

Many factors contribute towards South Asia's international reputation as both a leading manufacturing complex and a major commercial centre within the world. While many factors such as the economic policy of free enterprise and free trade, the rule of law, a well educated and industrious workforce, a sophisticated commercial infrastructure, as well as development of ports and airport which are among the world’s finest are important, an emerging factor that attracts the attention of the world to this specific region is the fast-paced growth of their I.C.T Sector.

As a student interested in learning more about investments geared towards the Technology, Media, and Telecommunication industries, I have been a keen observer of the way the improvements in technology and infrastructure have affected the regions' society and culture. As a race that heavily values the concept of efficiency and effectiveness, it is only inevitable that the way people communicate has shifted tremendously in the last decade. Unlike in the North American society, the Asian world is heavily reliant on smartphone as well as portable technologies, up to a point that this technology is subtly being integrated to everyday tasks such as ordering a cup of coffee through the use of E-Wallets and booking a taxi through SMS messages.

While there is large variance across Asia's ICT infrastructure landscape, there are centralized themes and factors driving innovation and development, largely deriving from the region's increasing economic integration, which in turn has several important effect for ICT technology purchase. Intra-regional trade and investments as well as increasing foreign demand has made South Asia one of the world's fastest-growing economic regions. The fact that carriers and enterprises largely avoided the global Financial Crisis has proved that it is more convenient for them to make decisions on next-generation technology, such as the introduction of Long-Term Evolution technology and other 4G mobile upgrades.

This economic robustness, and the continuous cycle of regional integration that has supported it, has also facilitated cross-ownership in telecommunication and particularly mobile network operations. An example of this would be Singapore's SingTel as well as Malaysia's Axiata who hold stakes in operators in Thailand, Indonesia, and other ASEAN nations.

As well, the Asian nations are currently experiencing difficulties while dealing with the flow of information. The growing concern has led the Asian market to become early adopters of technology that has just been introduced to the North American and European markets. By transferring most of their collection to the Cloud servers and technology, government organizations and multinational corporations that are headquartered in South Asia has been able to centralize their database and reduce the need for manual I.T tasks, allowing their human capital to automate their systems and allocate more of their efforts in developing strategies.

In conclusion, I can say that I was tremendously enlightened by the rapid growth of the ICT industry of South Asia. Through such growth, I was able to determine three key opportunities that could potentially rise from this on-going trend: Wireless Build, Next Generation Networking, and Mobile Media. These three sector are not as well promoted to the Western world, however, shows promising future for investors as they are all experiencing fast-paced growth. By providing services dealing with Wireless Broadband technologies, I.T Solutions (Hardware and Software), and mobile content services, there is no doubt that Canadian investors and entrepreneurs could see success in the years to come.

by Andrew Shon, Junior Team Canada Ambassador

Adventures while Chasing the JTC Bus

The following recount describes my experience missing the Junior Team Canada bus – not even in a figurative manner. Towards the end of the presentations at the Canadian Consulate General in Guangzhou, I met Trade Commissioner Assistant Ms. Corrnie Wang, one of twenty local employees at the office, who generously helped me connect with a local print shop for getting revised copies of JTC’s resource guide. The digital file for the booklet was being revised in Canada and there was no way to obtain it without email. The obstacle was that the internet connectivity in China is heavily restricted by what is known colloquially as the Great Firewall of China. To bypass it to check Gmail, one would have to log into the page before loading the inbox. After forwarding the file to Ms. Wang, I was surprised that my colleagues had left and no one at the China Hotel meeting room knew their whereabouts. Then if finally sunk in: I had missed the bus. The only logical step was returning to my room at the Leeden Hotel to rejoin the group later at dinner. This required getting the bellboy to search up the address on his smartphone and explain to the taxi driver the directions – a strange concept at the time. Upon returning, I realized it was impossible to contact my teammates, so my only bet was to refer to JTC’s agenda and contact the organization we were visiting. Luckily, I was connected to a helpful secretary, Eling Cheung from our inviter Jade and Company, who was aware of our visit to the Komaspec manufacturing factory in Guangzhou. She emailed me the address in both Chinese and English, and I proceeded outside to a taxi and learned it would take at least an hour and 50 kilometers of travel. This meant I would arrive with less than half an hour to spare before the JTC ambassadors left the factory. Finally, after negotiating a HKD $160 (CAD $27) flat rate, we began our ride chasing the bus.

The taxi driver and I bonded instantly, discussing culture, economics, careers, family, and JTC’s visitation in Guangzhou. It was smooth sailing until we arrived in the general region of the factory and the driver had no idea where the factory was. I quickly realized that drivers were not familiar with many of the city’s regions, and that cabs were not equipped with maps or GPS navigation. We consulted more than seven locals on the streets, ranging from street cleaners to tourists, most of which gave us conflicting directions. Borrowing a cellphone, I called Jade and Company again and the secretary tried to explain the location to the driver without much success. After getting more roadside assistance from locals, we both couldn’t be more relieved to find our destination.

Unfortunately, there was no bus to found, but I was excited to explore the busy factory with a chance to stretch my legs after sitting in the cab for two hours. Francis Gervais, engineer and Komspec’s Vice-President of Sales, warmly greeted me in the office and I was informed the JTC bus left ten minutes ago, an early departure. Fortunately, Mr. Gervais and I briefly discussed my mandate, Kaleid Snow Gear, who is seeking a manufacturer in Asia.

At the end of the day, I learned that taxi rates are affordable in Guangzhou, and GPSs are better with directions and addresses. Oh, and don’t miss the JTC bus – both literally and figuratively.

Bill Wang, Junior Team Canada Ambassador

JTC Mission Launch!

31 Youth Selected to Represent Canada on International Trade Mission to Hong Kong, China, Singapore, and Malaysia

Ottawa, Ontario — (July 10th, 2013), Global Vision

31 young Canadians will be traveling to Asia on an international trade mission this summer from July 31st to August 19th, visiting Hong Kong, China, Singapore, and Malaysia, as part of Global Vision’s Junior Team Canada program.

Junior Team Canada is a delegation of youth ambassadors that represent Canada both at home and abroad, through national conferences, international trade missions, and special assignments like the G8, G20, and APEC summits. 20-30 youth are selected through a nationwide selection process each year, giving these young leaders the opportunity to experience international trade and diplomacy first hand.

As Junior Team Canada Ambassadors they will meet with leaders from business, government, and the community to promote Canada’s economic interests, learn about business and culture in Asia, and further develop trade relationships in the region. The 2013 mission will be focused on the clean-tech & renewable energy, information technology, agriculture food & beverages, mining & resource extraction, education, real estate, and finance sectors.

“The mission is going to open up a world of new and exciting opportunities for them,” says Amy Giroux, Director of Global Vision and Junior Team Canada. “These dynamic young leaders are getting the experience and skills they need to help strengthen Canada’s presence in the global marketplace.”

About Global Vision

Global Vision - Junior Team Canada (JTC) is a Canadian non-for-profit organization founded in 1991 by Terrance Clifford, MP London-Middlesex (1984-1993) and Member of the Order of Canada. Global Vision’s objective is to give youth hands-on experiences in international trade and community leadership to produce top global leaders that build the future of Canada.

Global Vision’s flagship program, Junior Team Canada, has led missions to over 30 countries on 6 continents, the most recent being to Colombia and Panama in July 2012. Since its founding in 1990, it has equipped hundreds of Canadian youth leaders with the skills, experience and knowledge they need to become extraordinary leaders. The organization has been responsible for delegations on Team Canada Trade Missions, the APEC Summit, Inter American Development Bank, G8 and G20 Summits, as well as a variety of other top level international events.

For more information on Global Vision and its programs, visit
Information Media Only: Amy Giroux: 1-888-829-2838 |