Keynote Speech by H.E. Gu Xiaojie, Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria at the Symposium of “China/Nigeria Diplomatic Relations at 45: Possibilities, Prospects and Challenges”
Distinguished professors and teachers, Dear students, Ladies and gentlemen, Good afternoon.
It is a great pleasure for me to attend this symposium marking 45 years of China-Nigeria diplomatic relations. Ten days ago, on Feb 8th was Chinese Lunar New Year’s Day, known as Spring Festival. I hope it is not too late to wish you Happy New Year and best of luck in the year ahead, Barka da sabuwar shekara!
It’s very symbolic that we gather here today with so many friends from both China and Nigeria, to review what we have achieved in the past 45 years and to look ahead into the future. To begin with, I wish to extend, on behalf of the Chinese Embassy, our warmest greetings to all the guests present today. Thank you for your long-time commitment and contribution to China-Nigeria friendship and cooperation, and I look forward to learning from your thoughts and insights for the future development of our relationship. I also would like to extend my sincere thanks to Mr. Charles Onunaiju, Director of Centre for China Studies, for your careful preparations and thoughtful arrangements for this symposium.
Though China and Nigeria are far apart, the friendship and exchanges between our two peoples date back to decades ago. On February 10th, 1971, China and Nigeria established diplomatic relations, and ever since the bilateral relations have been developing smoothly and steadily. It was well before this, however, that the two countries had started a lot of friendly contacts. Since 1964, China provides government scholarships to Nigerian students. ln April 2005, China and Nigeria, the most populous developing countries in Asia and Africa respectively, declared the establishment of Strategic Partnership, which lifted the bilateral ties to a new high and sounded the clarion call to form an all-directional, multi-layered and wide-ranging cooperation. Since then, the political mutual trust between our two countries has been enhanced, economic ties forged closer and mutual understanding between our two peoples deepened further.
Politically, we have witnessed frequent high level visits between the two sides, and the political mutual trust has been enhanced. In 2014, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Nigeria and reached extensive consensus with Nigerian leaders. Last year, H.E. Mr. Han Changfu, Special Envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Minister of Agriculture attended the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari and exchanged views on bilateral cooperation when meeting with President Buhari.
Economically, the cooperation between our two sides in the areas such as infrastructure, energy, finance has scored impressive achievements. In the financial sector, Nigeria is the first country to accept Chinese RMB Yuan as its foreign reserve. In the trade area, the trade volume between China and Nigeria almost doubled in the past few years. In 2015, both our two countries were affected by the sluggish world economy, with trade volume between them last year standing at 14.94 billion dollars, 17.2 percent less than that of 2014. However, Nigeria remains the largest market for Chinese contracted projects and the second largest market for Chinese exports and the third largest trading partner in Africa. Nigeria is also a major destiny for Chinese out-bound capital. By the end of 2015, China’s non-financial direct investment to Nigeria is 1.55 billion US dollars, 17.6 percent more than that of 2014. Besides, we are delighted to witness that a series of major projects by the Chinese enterprises such as Abuja Light Rail, Lagos Rail Mass Transit System and Abuja-Kaduna railway have greatly improved the infrastructure of Nigeria and changed the life of Nigerian people.
People-to-people communication and cultural exchanges are an integral part of our bilateral relations. Both countries enjoy ancient civilizations and splendid cultures, and we could often find similarities in our value systems and world views. In the past few years, the people-to-people exchanges between the two countries have been increasing and the interactions are more frequent. Nigeria was the first African country to establish a culture center in China, and the Chinese culture center was also established in Nigeria. Every year, many cultural and academic groups from both countries visit each other. Right now, China has established 2 Confucius Institutes and 4 Chinese language centers in Nigeria. Nigerian people, especially the young people are very enthusiastic about learning Chinese. Currently, each year we gave about 100 government scholarships, and at the same time more than 400 Nigerian students funded by their family to study in China. All in all, the people-to-people and cultural exchanges between China and Nigeria have significantly reinforced mutual understanding and friendship. The amity is now deeply rooted in the hearts of the people from both sides.
In the areas of scientific and technical cooperation, especially in the field of aerospace and telecommunication, we have been in close contact and interaction. I’ve noticed that Minister of Communications Adebayo Shittu and Minister of Science and Technology Ogbonnaya Onu respectively led a delegation to China recently in a bid to further develop the telecommunications, science and technology industry in Nigeria with China’s support. It reminds me of the fact that our cooperation in science and technology has made Nigeria the first African country to boost satellite navigation capacity. In 2011, the China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC) launched Nigerian Communications Satellite 1R, which has thereafter met Nigeria’s requirements in communications, broadcast, navigation and broadband access and also provided services for Africa, Europe and Asia.
What is more, as members of the UN Security Council, China and Nigeria have extensive cooperation in many international and regional issues. Chinese people will never forget that Nigeria and other developing countries from Asia, Africa and Latin-America stood up to outside pressures, held on “One China Policy”, and fully supported China’s in restoring its legitimate seat in the United Nations. Since then, for major issues which have international and regional implications, China and Nigeria always communicate and support each other so as to jointly safeguard the interests of the African and developing countries.
China-Nigeria friendship has stood the test of time and geographical distance. It is booming with even greater vitality despite the vicissitudes of the changing international situation and has yielded great fruits. Most of us would be interested in discovering the reasons for and what can we learn from the continued development of China-Nigeria relationship. I wish to summarize my answer in the following 4 short sentences: The leaderships’ engagement provides the right guidance, the pragmatic, mutually-beneficial and win-win cooperation in all areas is the driving force, the close and frequent people-to-people exchanges are the foundation and the broad consensus on major issues is the bonding tie. We are sincere friends, good brothers and trustworthy partners. Just as the Nigeria proverb goes that “Fine words do not produce food”. Only through joint diligent work can we spread the tangible benefits of pragmatic cooperation among the peoples.
The international situation is now undergoing profound and complicated changes. This has brought us both challenges and opportunities.
In 2015, China’s gross domestic product grew 6.9 percent, reached about 10.3 trillion US dollars. However, China’s weakest full-year growth in a quarter of a century should not be deemed as a setback, but a rebalancing act for a more vibrant comeback. In fact, against international and domestic trade and financial market headwinds, the Chinese economy, sailed rather smoothly in 2015, while there are some difficulties to overcome, with impressive employment conditions and income rises for urban and rural residents. Chinese economy is still among the fastest growing major economies in the world despite the moderation in speed, and its performance is stable and moving in a positive direction. Strong efforts will be made to advance structural reform, implement the innovation-driven development strategy, promote mass entrepreneurship and innovation and develop new drivers of growth. China’s economy is highly resilient with considerable space for readjustment. China has capacity to maintain medium-to-high growth and achieve medium-to-high level of development.
As for Nigeria, while some Nigerians are lamenting over the dwindling fortunes of the country following the drastic drop in oil price in international market, it is a good opportunity for development. Last November, Nigeria smoothly and successfully got a new cabinet, which is working hard to implement President Buhari’s Agenda of Change. President Muhammadu Buhari has promised his administration would enact new policies to diversify Nigeria’s economy to develop sectors such as agriculture, mining and manufacturing. We have confidence in Nigerian people’s dedication and hard working and expect real change to happen.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,
I believe that China-Nigeria relations will see more opportunities than challenges in the coming years. In September and December last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Nigerian President Buhari in New York and Johannesburg respectively. The two leaders exchanged views on bilateral cooperation and issues of common concern, reached wide-ranging consensus, drew the new blueprint for and injected new impetus to the comprehensive development of bilateral cooperation, and charted the direction of future development of China-Nigeria strategic partnership.
As the first Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit held in Africa since its establishment 15 years ago, the Johannesburg Summit was held successfully and was a truly historic grand event of milestone significance. The summit determined the ten key cooperation plans in areas of industrialization, agricultural modernization, infrastructure, finance, green development, trade and investment facilitation, poverty reduction and people’s welfare, public health, people-to-people exchanges, as well as peace and security, which gained unanimous support and high praise from all African countries and also provided a good platform of deepening China-Nigeria pragmatic cooperation in various fields. Nigeria is an important partner of China and the biggest economy and most populous country in Africa. China will firmly implement the policy of “sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith” towards Nigeria put forward by President Xi Jinping, uphold the correct viewpoint righteousness and benefit, join hands with Nigeria for win-win cooperation and persist in planning and promoting bilateral relations from a strategic and long-term perspective.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,
Looking in to the past, China-Nigeria cooperation has greatly benefited the two sides. The fruitful achievement has reinforced our determination and confidence to expand this cooperation in the coming future.
As the largest developing countries and biggest economies in Asia and Africa respectively, both China and Nigeria are facing the similar arduous task of achieving modernization.
The fifth plenum of the 18th Congress of the Communist Party of China has worked out the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) for National Economic and Social Development, carried out new development notions of innovation, coordination, environmental protection, openness and sharing and identified clearly the direction of development over the next five years. 2016 marks the beginning of the decisive phase in the national effort to build China into a moderately prosperous society in all respects in 2020.The prospects is encouraging. At the same time, the Nigerian government is promoting the economic transformation.
However, happiness will not just fall from heaven, we must empower ourselves with strong faith and confidence, we must continue to work hard, we must join hands with each other and work towards a win-win future. Nigeria enjoys abundant mineral, land and human resources, and the large population also creates a big market. China has the capital, technology edge as well as experience, which are all needed by the Nigerian side. The two countries have a great potential to work in a wide range of fields such as energy, infrastructure, agriculture, aviation as well as IT technology. Besides, China and Nigeria are both confronted with the non-traditional security threats, and both are willing to further the cooperation in defense and security. What’s more, Chinese government highly appreciates President Buhari’s present anti-corruption fight and welcomes a Nigeria free of corruption.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,
China would like to further enhance mutual trust, expand cooperation and boost interactions, as China stands ready to intensify coordination and cooperation with Nigeria on international and regional issues, so as to safeguard the interests of the developing countries and lift the friendly relationship between China and Nigeria to a new high. While we are marching on this journey, I hope that all my friends in the audience will serve as a building block and driving force for the development of the China-Nigeria friendship.
In conclusion, I wish this symposium a great success.