Nowhere in the Lower Mainland has the coming together of two worlds — East and West — stirred emotions over the last few years than Richmond.
Throw in a hard-bitten, beer-drinking all-Canadian family, jade-mining in harsh conditions, with Chinese billionaire investors breathing over their shoulder, and you have a culture clash ready to ignite at any given second.
The poor guy caught slap, bang in the middle is Richmond family man Alan Qiao, who is one of the stars of a new Discovery Channel show called Jade Fever, which debuts March 31.
Qiao, who lives for most of the year with his wife, Shirley, and son and daughter, at their home near No. 2 Road and Westminster Highway, is the CEO and partner in Dease Lake Jade Mines, based in B.C.’s far north, near the Yukon border.
For the five months from June to October, however, Qiao spends much of his time in the tiny, remote, northern hamlet of Jade City — population 35 — overseeing and working with the Bunce family of miners, all hoping to uncover a priceless chunk of jade.
“The show is about two very different cultures coming together and how we try to work together,” said Qiao, who immigrated to Canada from China in 1998.
“All the while, we are fighting Mother Nature, fighting with the machines and fighting with each other.
“I’ve lived in Canada for 17 years, so I’m the go-between for the people mining and the investors in China.
“The way they do business in China is not really understood by the local people and there is, of course, conflict.”
Their home base for the short, 100-day mining season — Jade City — is literally in the middle of nowhere; five hours from Whitehorse, 24 from Vancouver.
It’s a remote highway stop with no government offices, no police station, no hospital and nobody to tell the tight-knit community of 35 people what to do.
Cushioning the collision of opposing mindsets is new ground for Qiao, who actually hails from a hotel management background from his former life in China.
“I started to buy jade in 2009 and then my cousin recommended buying Canadian jade,” said Qiao. “And then some Chinese investors in jade mining came in around 2012 and we’ve been mining there since.
“I spend about five months of the year, on and off, in Jade City and sometimes my family goes up there and my son has been there for a month to work.
The demand for jade has jumped tenfold over the past decade, fueled by an insatiable demand in China.
Jade Fever launches Tuesday, March 31 on Discovery at 8 p.m.