Bright prospects of China-Nigeria relations
At the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will pay a state visit to China in mid-April this year. This is the first visit to China by President Buhari since he came into office last May, and President Buhari will be the first African Head of State to visit China after the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Johannesburg Summit, which is of great importance to both China-Nigeria and China-Africa relations, and draw great attention from both countries and Africa.
Distance cannot separate true friends who feel so close even when they are thousands of miles apart. The China-Nigeria friendship has stood the test of time and became stronger and more vigorous despite the vast oceans between the two countries. On February 10, 1971, China and Nigeria established diplomatic relationship, and ever since then the bilateral relations have been developing smoothly and steadily.
In April 2005, China and Nigeria, the most populous developing countries in the world 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 pragmatic cooperation in various fields between the two countries have been leading in many ways in China’s cooperation with African countries, featuring fruitful achievements and examplary highlights.
In recent years, we have witnessed frequent high-level exchanges between the two sides, and the political mutual trust has been enhanced continuously. In 2014, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Nigeria and reached extensive consensus with Nigerian leaders. Last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Nigerian President Buhari twice, exchanged views on bilateral relations and issues of common concern, reached wide-ranging agreements, charted the direction of future development of China-Nigeria relations.
Economically, the cooperation between China and Nigeria in various areas such as infrastructure, energy, trade and finance has scored impressive achievements. Nigeria is the first African country to accept Chinese RMB in its foreign reserve. Last year, the bilateral trade volume stood at USD 14.94 billion, which represented 8.3 per cent of the total trade volume between China and Africa, and 42 per cent of the total trade volume between China and ECOWAS countries. Nigeria remains China’s No.1 engineering contract market, No.2 export market, No.3 trading partner, and major investment destination in Africa. So far, China has invested a total of over USD 2.5 billion in Nigeria. A large number of projects such as the launch of satellite, construction of railroad and the steady development of Lekki and Ogun free trade zones are the promising examples of China-Nigeria pragmatic cooperation.
People-to-people communication and cultural exchanges are an integral part of our bilateral relations. Both countries enjoy ancient civilisations and splendid cultures, and we could often find similarities in our value systems and world views. Nigeria was the first African country to establish a cultural center in China, and the Chinese cultural center was also established in Nigeria. Every year, many cultural and academic groups from both countries visit each other. Currently, 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. The amity is now deeply rooted in the hearts of the peoples of both countries.
Moreover, as major developing countries, 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 the resumption of China’s legitimate seat in the United Nations. Since then, for major issues which have international and regional implications, China and Nigeria have always communicated and supported each other so as to jointly safeguard the interests of the African and developing countries.
• Xiaojie is China’s Ambassador to Nigeria.
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