THE SIGNIFICANCE OF NIGERIA-CHINA STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP AND ITS FUTURE PROSPECTS BY: PROF. S. A. IBRAHIM (DEPT. OF POLITICAL SCIENCE NSUK AND PRESIDENT, NIGERIAN POLITICAL SCIENCE ASSOCIATION NPSA)
There is no doubt that China has positioned itself as a country to reckon with in today’s world economy. This could be said to be a reflection of the influx of economic activities from various foreign investors who are attracted to the existence of a market for their products and services in the over 1 billion populated country. Essentially, this positive development about China has been severally linked to its ‘open-door policy’ which took effect from the 1980s (Chan et al., 2005) and the eventual joining of the WTO in December, 2001 (Taylor, 2004; Zhu and McKenna, 2007). Interestingly, the prevailing interest in China as ‘economic powerhouse’ (Jiang et al., 2005) is not only limited to its economic activities, but has also attracted the interest of scholars who have written extensively about this development. Nigerian economic outlook shows that the country has potentials to tap huge agricultural capacity, large deposit of gas and deepwater oil reserves, and large youthful population (Soludo, 2007). Also, it is claimed that the objectives of Chinese policy towards Africa and its implementation emphasize that the essence of the strategic economic and trade relationships were to create “mutual benefits”, “common development”, and “win-and-win” results in economic relations (Wang, 2007). Thus, the recent and nascent Sub-Saharan African (Nigeria inclusive) economic relations with China have been a welcome development.
Understanding Nigeria-China Strategic Partnership in the 21st Century
Nigeria and China enjoy longstanding friendly partnerships. For 45 years now, precisely February 10th, 1971, the two most populous developing countries, China in Asia and Nigeria in Africa, established diplomatic relations. In October of the same year, Nigeria and other developing countries from Asia, Africa and Latin-America stood up to outside pressures, upheld “One China Policy”, and fully supported the People’s Republic of China in restoring its legitimate seat in the United Nations successfully. Starting from scratch and becoming stronger ever since, Nigeria-China friendly exchanges laid a solid foundation for the comprehensive development of bilateral relations (Xiaojie, 2016).
It is important to accentuate that Nigeria and China have achieved fast-growing pragmatic cooperation. In 1971, the bilateral trade volume was only 10 million US dollars, and vacancy abounded in many areas of cooperation. Nowadays, the bilateral trade volume is more than tens of billions US dollars for many consecutive years, hundreds of times than that in 1971. Nigeria is China’s No.1 engineering contract market, No.2 export market, No.3 trading partner, and major investment destination in Africa. By the end of 2015, China’s cumulated non-financial direct investment is more than 13 billion US dollars. Big projects such as the launch of satellite, construction of railroad and the fast development of Lekki and Ogun free trade zones are the true story of Nigeria-China pragmatic partnership.
Flashing back to past 45 years of Nigeria-China relations, we might as well say that the reason why the relations have managed to withstand the unexpected changes of international situations and remained ever new on the basis of traditional friendship, could be the following two major factors as identified by Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria Mr. Gu Xiaojie (2016):
The first is equality and political mutual trust, and unity and coordination in international affairs. As good brothers, both countries pursue the independent foreign policy of peace, respect each other’s choice of development path, promote south-south cooperation to safeguard common interests of developing countries, and show mutual understanding and support to each other on issues involving core interests and major concerns of each side.
The second is win-win cooperation in economy, and mutual learning in civilization. As good partners, the two countries always adhere to win-win cooperation and common development, thus bringing its benefits to our peoples; always attach great importance to people-to-people and cultural exchanges, thus making stronger the social and civil foundation for bilateral relations.
As the great Nigerian poet Ben Okri once said: “Our future is greater than our past”. 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 relations and issues of common concern, reached wide-ranging consensus, drew 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 (Gbadomosi and Oniku, 2009).
Nigeria-China Strategic Partnership: Prospects and Opportunities
China’s economic situation in 2015 could be described as “stable with progress”. The “progress” was mainly shown in three aspects: first, the economy realized medium to high speed growth under the new normal; second, consumption became the major force of economic growth; third, the service sector turned to be the leading industry of national economy. From the perspective of domestic economy, the GDP grew by about 500 billion USD at the growth rate of 6.9 percent, which ranked the first among global major countries and equalled to the total GDP of a middle-ranged European country. From the perspective of the influence on the world economy, China’s total import reached 1.68 trillion USD, remaining the second around the world; the oil import grew by 8 percent; and the outward foreign direct investment reached 127.6 billion USD, a year-on-year increase of 10 percent (Xiaojie, 2016).
In a letter of congratulatory message to General Buhari on his victory in the March 28 Presidential election, president XI Xinping expressed desire to deepen bilateral co-operation. Already this year is significant for Nigeria-China bilateral relation, because it marked the 10th anniversary of the establishment of “Strategic Partnership” between the two countries (Onunaiju, 2015).
A key component of the strategic partnership is the establishment of consultative mechanism between the relevant organs and institutions of the state of the two sides to consult and co-ordinate position and views on crucial global and regional issues with a view to harmonize positions and possibly forge a common front or take similar stance in the best of their respective national interests. Ten years after the establishment of the strategic partnership and a window on mutual consultations, an objective assessment has not found more than a routine and traditional diplomatic engagement, with a gap still yawning for the value that strategic partnership should add to the existing co-operation. At the same time, China will strengthen international cooperation on capacity and equipment manufacturing, and assist developing countries in promoting infrastructure construction and industrialization. This will for sure provide powerful impetus to China-Nigeria economic and trade cooperation featuring mutual benefits (Xiaojie, 2016).
Conclusively, 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 and Africa put forward by President Xi Jinping, uphold the correct viewpoint of 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.
As the great Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe once said: “If you don’t like someone’s story, write your own”. This is exactly what the Chinese are doing since the very beginning and right here right now in Nigeria. The 45 years history of the establishment of diplomatic relations is also the history of Chinese people and Chinese companies’ struggle. They may not good at speech but are quick in action; they are down-to-earth and hardworking; through their own practical efforts, they have made great contribution to the economic and social development of Nigeria and to the upgrading of Nigeria-China relations.
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