Speech by Senator Woo on Institute of Asian Research

Institute of Asian Research

University of British Columbia—Congratulations on Twentieth Anniversary

February 8, 2017


The Honourable Senator Yuen Pau Woo :

Honourable senators, today marks the twentieth anniversary of the Institute of Asian Research at the C.K. Choi Building at the University of British Columbia. I would like to send greetings on behalf of the Senate to mark this important milestone and our good wishes for the continued contribution of the institute to teaching, scholarship, public engagement and policy development on Asia and Canada-Asia relations.

Founded in 1978, the Institute of Asian Research is the focal point for Asia policy and current affairs at the University of British Columbia. The institute supports research and a wide range of Asia-Pacific policy issues, including global and regional governance; culture, religion and society; energy and resource management; regional security; and trade and human rights.

In 1997, the institute relocated to the C.K. Choi Building at the north end of UBC's Point Grey campus, a bold move that was made possible largely because of the leadership of then-president David Strangway, who sadly passed away in December. The building was built with recycled materials. It has employed a number of best practices in minimizing the environmental impact of the premises through reduction of water consumption and energy use, including most famously the non-flushing toilet.

The Institute of Asian Research is part of a constellation of Asia expertise at UBC that spans all disciplines, from medicine to forestry to business. In fact, one of the key roles of the institute is to facilitate Asia-related teaching and research across the university, so that Asia research is not seen as a rarified activity of small cognoscenti, but as a core competence for any serious scholar in any discipline who is interested in being relevant to the issues of the day. As a result, UBC likely has the greatest concentration of Asia-relevant expertise of any university in Canada, and is surely near the top compared to other universities in the western world. As part of the evolution in thinking about the contemporary relevance of Asian studies, the institute has also been at the forefront of developing a Masters of Public Policy and Global Affairs, with an emphasis on Asia, which is a precursor to the establishment of a school of public policy and global affairs.

In celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Institute of Asian Research at the Choi Building, my intention is not just to inform this chamber of a very fine institution at a very fine university on the West Coast of Canada. There are many very fine research institutions at universities across the country. What I want to highlight instead is the way in which the Institute of Asian Research at UBC is pioneering an approach to the study of Asia that is based not just on "area specialization" but on the contemporary relevance of Asia for all fields of study.

If you are a social scientist, and you know nothing about research on Asia or research by Asian scholars, your education is grossly incomplete. Likewise, you cannot be a world-class oncologist if you are not plugged into cancer research networks in Asia, or an expert on environmental protection without some knowledge of practices in Asian countries.

The shift in power and influence toward Asia has profound implications for global governance, international economics and regional security. Needless to say, the rise of Asia matters to Canada, not just because we are a Pacific nation and have a large population of Asian Canadians, but more important because what happens today in China, Japan, Korea, India and Southeast Asia has cascading effects around the world. We better understand and hence are more prepared for these effects because of the work of UBC’s Institute of Asian Research and the community of Asia-focused scholars and practitioners across the country.