By John Okeke
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, on Wednesday, hailed the Communists Party of China, CPC, for moving China from the era of Chairman Mao to become the economic power house till today.
Obasanjo, who felicitated CPC on its 100 years in existence, said China’s success can be ascribed to its political system.
The former president’s statement read in part: “Let me start by congratulating the Chinese community all over the world and the entire good people of China on the 100 years celebration of your great Party, the CPC, the second largest political party in the world.
“I am, indeed, pleased and honoured for the opportunity accorded me to send in my Goodwill Message in support of the centenary celebration.
“Founded in 1921, the Communist Party of China (CPC) has always been committed to its original aspiration and mission of seeking happiness for the Chinese people and rejuvenation for the Chinese nation.
“It is important to note that China’s success can be ascribed to its political system. The party has led the country from the era of Chairman Mao to become the economic power house till today.
He continued,”The Peoples’ Republic of China is sometimes referred to as a modern day miracle and continues to draw the attention of the entire world for the remarkable progress it has made in economic development, science and technology. There are several important elements that led China to the Superpower status. One of the factors that have contributed immensely to the growth of the country is the leadership of the party. Indeed, the party exercises overall leadership over all areas of endeavour in every part of the country, and thus guides the socialist modernization of China.
With the founding of the People’s Republic of China, headed by Mao Zedong who is regarded as the Founding Father of Modern China, China’s leaders began their exploration of the road to socialist industrialization and modernization. Working towards the goal of economic modernization, their strategy moved from “national industrialization” to “four modernizations.” Mao was responsible for many of the political initiatives that transformed the face of China.
Following Mao’s death in 1976, the new leader, Deng Xiaoping, commenced a series of reforms that radically changed China. Deng encouraged international phenomenal entry into world markets and a booming economy.
” The economic reforms that were introduced by Deng Xiaoping in the late seventies have transformed the Chinese economy and produced a period of spectacular growth. With Deng Xiaping’s reform policies of the 1970s and 1980s, China’s dramatic growth and modernization and attendant industrial, energy and market expansion needs brought it into greater contact with Africa,” he said.
Commenting on the existing relationship between the two cpuntries , Obasanjo said,”since establishing diplomatic relations with China in 1971, Nigeria’s relationship with China has developed into one of the most important bilateral relationships maintained by either country. The relationship has broadened and deepened with China’s growing power and interest in securing its regional interests (particularly within the South China Sea), and taking its place as a major global actor. China and Nigeria have signed a number of agreements on trade, economic and technological cooperation as well as on investment protection.
In May 1999 when Nigeria returned to constitutional democracy, I visited China twice in 2001 and 2005 respectively with my Chinese counterpart reciprocating both visits. The combination of domestic political and economic reforms and policy re-alignment enabled Nigeria to re-open dialogue and cooperation with major trading partners. As a result, there was evidence of growth in the country’s trade relations with its traditional allies as well as emerging economies such as India and China. Indeed, by 2004-2005, China has succeeded in displacing other countries such as the United States, United Kingdom and the Netherlands as Nigeria’s biggest trading partner.
During former President Hu Jintao’s visit to Nigeria in 2006, as Nigerian President, I remember making the following remarks, “From our assessment, this twenty-first century is the century for China to lead the world. And when you are leading the world, we want to be close behind you. When you are going to the moon, we don’t want to be left behind”.
“Today, China is one of the most important lenders of development finance to Nigeria. Chinese firms and finance play a prominent role in Nigeria’s infrastructure development. This is notably in the construction of railway lines and road reconstruction across the country. Nigeria marked symbolic progress of railway service in July 2016, when its first completed standard gauge railway modernization project, Kaduna to Abuja, assisted by China was put into commercial operation. The light rail, the first of its kind in West Africa, fully reflects China’s technology, quality and speed.
As of 2017, Nigeria was China’s largest engineering contract market, second largest export market, third largest trading partner, and major foreign direct investment destination in Africa. Nigeria is also the first African country to accept Chinese renminbi (RMB) in its foreign reserve. China and Nigeria have maintained a steady development of Lekki and Ogun free trade zones in the Southern part of the country. The zones aim to attract foreign investors and manufacturers to optimize Nigeria’s industrial structure and improve its national living standard.
Clearly, the relationship has become more economic as China evolved from a political power to a global economic giant. The growing trade and presence of Chinese finance in Nigeria has also led to changing narratives about increased migration on both sides. China has also contributed to the development of Nigeria’s human capital. Many Nigerian students now study in Chinese schools — with a few on scholarships.
China’s visibility in Africa’s infrastructural landscape is clear. From the landmark $200m African Union Secretariat building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which was a gift in 2012 by China, to the roads, airports, railways, universities and libraries, Chinese investment in Africa increased from around $75m in 2003 to $2.7bn in 2019. Africa has also served as a market for Chinese manufacturing and as a source of raw materials.
Chinese companies are also building education and training facilities in Nigeria. 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,” he said.
“Let me conclude with a poser I raised in the Vol. Ill of my memoir, My Watch: Now and Then, “What events are we to watch for in the future?” China’s growth and strength remain unstoppable. How China uses its increased power will matter to the world. Technology will keep moving. Africa must be innovative, shrewd and resourceful to know where and how to jumpstart technology, not by re-inventing the wheel but by being only a step behind the cutting edge of science and technology and by being part of the creation of relevant technology for our needs, development and progress. Africa must not be detached from the world of science, technology and innovation led by China,” he added.