Asia knowledge gap needs to be plugged

By Mata Press Service


Canadian millennials are not a homogeneous group in terms of their views on Asia and are more engaged with the region through work, travel and social networks, a new poll released this week shows.

The poll by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada (APF Canada) also showed millennials tend to be more pragmatic when it comes to their views on what should drive Canadian foreign policy.

Younger millennials (18-24) are more likely to argue that economic opportunities should shape foreign policy, while older millennials (25-34) are more likely to see opportunities for collaboration on global issues like climate change as shaping our outreach internationally.

This is in contrast to Canadians 35 years and older who believe that Canada should prioritize relationships with countries that uphold Canadian values.

Based on the results and analysis, APF Canada concluded that there is a strong desire among the future generation for more comprehensive knowledge about Asia, for increased exposure to Asia in education, and for more opportunities of grounded experiences in Asia.

The data further suggested that the government may need to reflect on how it can help build Asia competency among Canadians, as the survey results suggest that there is currently a knowledge gap.

The survey involved 1,527 Canadian adults over the age of 18 was conducted from September 18 to October 1, 2017.

Here are some of the key findings of the Canadian Millennial Views on Asia study;


The China Syndrome

Canadians have a China-centric mental image of Asia. Nearly 7 in 10 Canadians think of China when hearing the word “Asia,” with Japan (10%) and India (5%) standing at a distant second and third place. This China-centric mental image of Asia is shared by millennials and older generations.


Mixed feelings

Overall, Canadians have mixed feelings about Asia. Forty-nine percent express favourable feelings to Asia in general whereas another 44% express neutral or unfavourable feelings. Within the population, the learning generation (18–24) feels most positive toward Asia: 61% express favourable feelings toward Asia, as opposed to 47% for the engaged generation (25–34) and 48% for the skeptical generation (35+). The skeptical generation also has the most unfavourable ratings (13%) of Asia.


Degrees of separation

Canadians as a whole have a strong sense that Asian countries are dissimilar culturally, economically, and politically. However, when separated out, the learning generation (18–24) is more likely to perceive Asia as a single entity with similar culture (32%), economy (28%), and politics (21%).



All three generations have higher ratings for the governments of Canada, Japan, and South Korea than the governments of India, China, the Philippines. Respondents associate words like “well-functioning” with the Japanese government and “democratic” with the Korean government. In contrast, respondents tend to associate “authoritarian” with the governments of China and the Philippines, “corrupt” with the governments of India and the Philippines, “repressive” with the governments of China and the Philippines, and “dysfunctional” with the U.S. and Indian governments.



Canadians as a whole are prone to stereotyping Asian people, especially the Japanese, Chinese, and South Koreans, as “hardworking” and “traditional.” Filipinos and Indians are also characterized as being “poor.” However, the learning generation (18–24) tends to have a more wide-ranging view of Asian people: they are more likely than older generations to use descriptors other than “traditional” and “hardworking.”


The word game

Top words used by the three generations to describe Asian countries are similar in general. They tend to be more positive for Japan (“stable,” “strong”), China (“strong,” “rising”), India (“rising”), and South Korea (“moderate,” “stable”) and less positive for the Philippines (“unstable” and “weak”).


The lending hand

Humanitarian aid is seen by Canadians to be part of Canada’s role in global security issues. The majority of Canadians believe that Canada has a role to play in helping to address conflict on the Korean Peninsula. The largest percentage across all generations feel that military support and humanitarian aid should be offered. A smaller percentage feel that humanitarian aid alone would be sufficient


The knowledge gap

Canadians believe that they have moderate levels of familiarity with Asia. Overall, 7 out of 10 Canadians believe they are somewhat or very familiar with Asia. Across generations, the learning generation (18–24) has the lowest level of self-perceived knowledge about Asia—one-third indicate that they are not familiar with Asia as compared with 15% for the engaged generation (25–34) and 22% for the skeptical generation (35+). The engaged generation (25–34) claims to be most knowledgeable about Asia—18% feel they are very familiar with the region


Wanting to know more about Asia

There is a solid interest among Canadians in learning more about Asia. Across all generations, over 70% express some interest in Asia. This is particularly true for millennials: 34% of the engaged generation (25–34) and 26% of the learning generation (18–24) say they are very interested and willing to proactively learn about Asia as compared with 19% for the skeptical generation (35+) The majority of those interested in Asia are mostly interested in the areas of culture (80%), history (70%), and society (68%). The 64% of Canadians who are not very familiar with Asia and yet interested in learning more suggest a significant desire to fill the Asia “knowledge gap” among Canadians. Similarly, over 60% for all generations feel that their high school education did not have enough Asia content.

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