By John Okeke
China-Nigeria diplomatic relations has come along way with both countries enjoying a cordial , strong and excellent relations. 48th years diplomatic relations of both countries has been mutually beneficial.
Nigeria and the People’s Republic of China established formal diplomatic relations on February 10, 1971.
Bilateral relations between China and Nigeria have reached a new height in recent years through cooperation in multiple areas since the two countries established diplomatic ties more than four decades ago.
Relations between the two countries are growing now at “a very satisfactory win-win level.
Nigeria fully supported the resumption of China’s legitimate seat in the United Nations in the 1970s. Since then, on major issues which have international and regional implications, China and Nigeria have always communicated with and supported each other to jointly safeguard the interests of African and developing countries.
In recent years, the two sides have been conducting frequent high-level exchanges, and continuously enhancing political mutual trust. In 2014, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Nigeria and reached extensive consensus with Nigerian leaders.
In 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping met twice with Buhari and the two leaders exchanged views on bilateral relations and issues of common concern, reached wide-ranging agreements, and charted the direction of future development of China-Nigeria relations.
On April 12, 2016, Buhari paid his first state visit to China. Xi and Buhari agreed to take bilateral relations onto a new stage.
In January 2017, during the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the Nigerian government reaffirmed its commitment to the one-China policy, saying Nigeria will stay committed to the long-standing friendship and cooperation with China.
At the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in early September last year, Chinese and African leaders have unanimously decided to build a China-Africa community with a shared future that assumes joint responsibility, pursues win-win cooperation, delivers happiness for all, enjoys cultural prosperity, ensures common security, and promotes harmony between man and nature.
Alongside the ever-closer political relations, economic ties between China and Nigeria have also witnessed accelerated strides.
As of 2017, Nigeria was China’s largest engineering contract market, second largest export market, third largest trading partner, and major investment destination in Africa.
Numerous projects such as the launch of a satellite and the construction of the railway have remained the promising examples of China-Nigeria pragmatic cooperation.
In July, with China’s help, Nigeria commissioned a light rail, the first of its kind in west Africa, which fully reflects China’s technology, quality and speed.
Nigeria marked symbolic progress of railway service in July 2016, when its first completed standard gauge railway modernization project assisted by China was put into commercial operation.
The railway, linking the capital Abuja to the northwestern state of Kaduna, is part of a railway modernization initiative by Nigeria which aims to replace the existing narrow gauge system with the wider standard gauge system.
On May 15, Nigeria signed an agreement of 6.68 billion dollars with China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) for modernization of a major segment of the rail line linking the economic capital Lagos with Kano, northern Nigeria’s commercial hub.
On culture, Nigeria was the first African country to establish a cultural center in China, and the Chinese Cultural Center was established in Nigeria in 2013.
Every year, many cultural and academic groups from both countries visit each other, promoting art and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.
Currently, China has established two Confucius Institutes and four Chinese language centers in Nigeria. There are currently about 30 Chinese language teachers in the country, and this number is far from meeting the demands.
Nigerians, especially the young people, are very enthusiastic about learning Chinese. The amity is now deeply rooted in the hearts of the people of both countries.
In January, China commenced an exploration of the African animation industry in Nigeria as a way of deepening cultural cooperation between the two countries.
China currently provides assistance toward agricultural development in Nigeria by sharing its experience and providing financial and technical support toward the country’s realization of its agricultural and food security plans.
Agriculture currently accounts for 23 percent of Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs 38 percent of its working population.
The country is projected to become a net exporter of key agricultural products such as rice, cashew nuts, groundnuts, cassava and vegetable oil by 2020, according to the government.
Between 2002 and 2014, China and Nigeria implemented two phases of a program under the China-Nigeria South-South Agricultural Cooperation, which provided technical training in agronomy, water conservancy, fisheries and animal husbandry in Nigeria.
China has provided a lot of training opportunities for Nigerian agricultural officials and technical staff for their capacity building, which has achieved fruitful results.
The Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama had said the relationship between China and Nigeria, was an age-long relationship, including the relationship between China and Africa.
He stated that Africans would never forget the support received from China during the African continent’s transition from colonialism to independence.
The minister said that China was steadfast in her support of African countries, even as he said China stood firmly with Africa during the years of the cold war.
Africa’s bond with Chinese people, Onyeama further said, is extremely strong, saying that that was the reason African countries played an important role to ensure that the Peoples Republic of China became the representative of the Chinese people in the United Nations when it wanted to join the world body.
“Of course, for today, China is a model for developing countries, a model of how a government with a vision and with discipline can transform a huge country and lift millions and millions of people out of poverty,” Onyeama said.
The Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr.Zhou Pingjian commenting on the China-Nigeria diplomatic relations @48 said the relations between the two countries have yielded a significant result.
Pingjian said China stands ready to take the relationship to an enviable heights.
He said,” February 10 this year marks the 48th anniversary of China-Nigeria diplomatic relations. Both China and Nigeria are major developing countries of great influence in the world. Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1971 and strategic partnership in 2005 in particular between China and Nigeria, the all-round, wide-ranging and high-quality bilateral cooperation has been a pace-setter for China-Africa cooperation, bringing tangible benefits to our two peoples.
“We are very glad to note that through the joint efforts of both sides, in recent years China-Nigeria political mutual trust has been enhanced significantly and mutually beneficial cooperation has yielded fruitful results with broad prospects. China-Nigeria relations are now at their best time in history. President Buhari attended the FOCAC Beijing Summit last September and Nigeria made great contribution to the complete success of the Summit. President Xi Jinping and President I3uhari reached important consensus on furthering bilateral ties. China and Nigeria have signed a governmental MoU on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) ,” he said.
He continued, ” In 2018, China-Nigeria Cooperation has made fruitful and prominent achievements. The commissioning of Abuja Light Railway and the new airport terminals in Port Harcourt and Abuja, the flag-off of Abuja-Keffi-Lafia-Makurdi Road, the ongoing construction of Zungeru Hydropower Plant as well as Lagos-Ibadan Railway and Lekki Deep Seaport, the booming Ogun Guandong and Lekki Free Trade Zones with the promotion of the idea “Made in Nigeria with China” fruitful, the signing of China-Nigeria Currency Swap Deal, the port call of Frigate Yancheng to Lagos, etc… China-Nigeria relations have reached a stage of growth unmatched in history.
“The year of 2019 is the first year that Nigeria formally joins the big family of the BRI. The Belt and Road is China’s initiative, but it belongs to the world and benefits all. China adheres to the fundamental national policy of opening up and pursues development with its doors open wide. China will actively promote international cooperation through the BRI. In doing so, we hope to achieve policy, infrastructure, trade, financial, and people-to-people connectivity and thus build a new platform for international cooperation to create new drivers of shared development. The Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be held in Beijing in April this year. To implement the outcomes of the FOCAC Beijing Summit and the Eight Major Initiatives promptly and efficiently will bring broad prospects for the cooperation between China and Nigeria under the BRI. Guided by the principle of consultation and collaboration for shared benefits, China-Nigeria cooperation can become a model for China-Africa cooperation,” he said.
“In 2019, China will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. China stands ready to work with Nigeria to elevate our strategic partnership to a new level and bring greater benefits to our two countries and peoples,” he added.