Opportunities for Alberta businesses exist in key industries in China such as energy, environmental protection, and agriculture, among others.


China has been the world’s largest energy consumer since 2011. BP projects that by 2020, China’s energy demand will reach 3,463 million tonnes oil equivalent. In April 2017, Alberta signed an agreement with China’s National Development and Reform Commission – Energy Research Institute for collaboration in sectors related to sustainable energy development, renewable energy development, energy efficiency and climate change research and policy development. China’s top three oil companies (CNOOC, CNPC and Sinopec) have invested in Alberta and established offices in Calgary.

China is also the world’s largest consumer, producer and importer of coal. Coal made up over 64 per cent of China’s total energy consumption in 2014 and China is aiming to cap this at 62 per cent by 2020. China has led global investment in alternative energy projects since 2010 and China is the world’s largest producer of solar and wind power.

Environmental Protection

China’s environmental industry has been developing in leaps and bounds in recent years. Investment in water conservancy, environment and public-facilities management amounted to RMB6.86 trillion in 2016, an increase of 23.3% year-on-year, according to statistics. Investment in the environmental sector is projected to exceed RMB15 trillion during the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020), with the focus of industrial development shifting from environmental pollution control to environmental quality improvement. Moreover, a large number of environmental projects, such as soil remediation, black smelly river treatment and sponge city construction, will be developed through public-private partnerships (PPP), which will in turn attract trillions of yuan in investment.

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, China has worked out a series of fundamental plans to curb environmental contamination, improve the quality of the ecological environment, and minimize the environmental risks. The three action plans on air, water and soil pollution have been released consecutively in 2013, 2015 and 2016. At the 19th CPC National Congress, President Xi Jinping introduced the goal of establishing a "beautiful China" and building an ecological civilization by 2035. In January 2018, China instituted the environmental protection tax aiming to reduce pollutant discharges; over 260,000 enterprises started paying the tax in April 2018.

Agriculture & Forestry

China is Alberta’s second largest market for agri-food exports, valued at $1.984 billion in 2017. Top Alberta agri-food exports in 2017 included canola seed ($808 million), canola oil ($465 million), raw hides and skins ($163 million), beef ($74 million), barley ($133 million) and wheat ($73 million). In November 2016 the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry led a mission to China to profile and advocate Alberta as a preferred supplier of agriculture and agri-food products as well as to promote market diversification within Alberta’s forestry sector.

China is Alberta’s third largest lumber market and second largest pulp market, accounting for 21 per cent of Alberta’s total export market with shipments valued at C$489 million in 2016. Alberta Forestry Division has developed productive relationships with two major Chinese wood product companies, Dehua (Tubao) and Dongshun. It has co-sponsored five successful Softwood Lumber Grading Seminars in Ningbo, Dongguan, Hefei, Xiamen and Shunde aimed at educating lumber buyers in China on Western Canadian SPF lumber.


China is the top source country and fastest growing for international students entering Alberta’s K-12 system. It currently represents 47 per cent of international students attending K-12 schools in Alberta. Between 2013 and 2017, 12 131 citizens of China had international study permits come into effect for Alberta.

Alberta’s close educational relations with China have resulted in the development of Alberta Education’s Strategic Framework with China (2011), which guides and encourages engagement of local school jurisdictions with counterparts in China. Many of Alberta’s K-12 schools have twinning relationships with their respective counterparts in China. Alberta’s post-secondary institutions are engaged in a wide range of formal relationships with Chinese post-secondary institutions and companies, and collectively have over 60 formal ongoing agreements that range in scope from student exchanges and study tours, to research and articulation agreements, to delivery of off-shore education and custom training.

Science & Technology

China is an emerging science and technology market for Alberta. Alberta and China have several science and technology agreements designed to enhance research and development co-operation in the areas of information and communications technology, life sciences, environmental technologies, advanced materials, energy-related technologies and hi-tech agriculture.

From 2010-2015, Alberta had an agreement with China’s Ministry of Science and Technology to encourage scientific and technological co-operation and research exchange. The MOU is expected to get renewed in 2018. In January 2014, Alberta renewed its MOU agreements with the Department of Science and Technology, Zhejiang Province and the Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality to facilitate collaboration in industrial research and development. Alberta also has a MOU with Guangdong Department of Science and Technology that was renewed in 2016.


Revealed by China's Ministry of Commerce, China has become the world’s largest E-commerce market with online retail sales totaling $1.149 trillion in 2017, an increase of 32% from $869 billion in 2016. The market is still continuing to grow across all product catalogues, driven by a number of factors including: demand readiness (China’s middle class now exceeds 400 million with a national average income of $12,000per year, resulting in over 460 million online shoppers); technology infrastructure (there are more than 632 million internet users, with a penetration rate of nearly 47% while the government has also continued to invest in expanding 4G services, and the smart phone penetration rate is about 66%); and support infrastructure (logistics and delivery services has to expand rapidly to keep up with growing e-commerce deliveries - Service standards often include same day delivery at a minimal cost. Online payment platforms such as Alipay and Wechat Pay have made online payment easier as it has expanded the use of credit cards).

By the end of 2017, Alibaba’s Tmall Global and JD.com Worldwide dominated China’s domestic marketplace, with a combined market share of 84%. A major benefit to these e-commerce platforms is that they allow Canadian companies that do not have Chinese business licenses to sell their products into China’s market, offering a lower-risk entry with relatively little investment. On September 3rd, 2016 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Jack Ma, Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group jointly launched a Canadian Pavilion on Tmall Global to better brand and promote Canadian products and services.


The information and communication technology (ICT) sector in China has grown rapidly in the recent decade. The government plays a strong role in promoting and regulating the development of the ICT industry. China is the third-largest market for enterprise IT spending, after the U.S. and Japan, according to Gartner forecasts. Spending by Chinese enterprises on technology products and services is forecast to reach $155.8 billion (RMB 972.4 billion) in 2016. South China is one of the major ICT hubs in China with its major city Shenzhen having registered patents accounting for over 40% of China’s total in 2017, ranking No. 1 in the country for 14 years consecutively.

South China is in the process of industrial upgrades with many of the above mentioned areas listed as strategic priorities in the 13th Five Year Plan of provinces and cities in the region. Alberta companies can find a great amount of market potential for their technology and service here. In 2008, Alberta and Guangdong has signed an S&T MOU with the main focus on fuel cell technology cooperation. This MOU was renewed in Nov 2016 with a new focus on: ICT, renewables and clean energy, advanced materials, public health and environmental technologies.