By CUI Jianchun
End March of the year 2023 marks the second anniversary of my credentials to Nigeria. This is a country beloved by me, with splendid ancient culture, diversified social formation, colourful natural endowments, peace-loving and hardworking people, and immeasurable development potential.
Meanwhile, the year 2021, when I kicked off my posting here, marked the 50th anniversary of Nigeria-China diplomatic relations, a unique occasion co-celebrated by both in an extensive manner. The two countries indeed share a lot in similarity, while the most typical one in recent years is that both are entering into a new era of national construction and development.
Nigeria has gained achievements on national development, by resisting economic recessions, overcoming coronavirus pandemic, coping with humanitarian challenges, and keeping 23 years of uninterrupted democracy process, which make Nigeria as one of the leading countries in Africa. As Ambassador of China, I had several chances to meet and talk with President Buhari, most recently at the ground-breaking ceremony of the new ECOWAS Headquarter building last month. I have been always touched and encouraged by his enthusiasm and determination to the country’s development and people’s wellbeing.
Meanwhile, China, under the strong leadership of President Xi Jinping, who doubles as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China(CPC), the ruling party in China, has eliminated the historical problem of absolute poverty, and achieved moderate prosperity in all respects. In October 2017, “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” was added to the CPC Constitution at its 19th National Congress, a remarkable milestone at China’s national development. Last October, CPC’s 20th National Congress was successfully held. It re-affirmed President Xi’s leadership status, and also brought the entire party and the Chinese people to embark on a new journey to build China into a modern socialist country in all respects and advance towards the country’s Second Centenary Goal.
As a diplomat, my focus is always on the bilateral cooperation between the host country and my home country. Thus, it’s my pleasure to see that, taking advantages bred by the new era, Nigeria-China pragmatic cooperation in major sectors also witnessed a rapid development, driven by wheels of guiding strategy, trade, investment and contracted projects, development assistance, and initiative of “Sharing Chinese Harmony and Performing Nigeria-China Symphony” (Harmony-Symphony Initiative).
Guiding strategy functions as the fundamental guarantee for cooperation. President Buhari and President Xi have kept close and regular communications through different manners over bilateral relations and multilateral issues of mutual interest, which draws up the general guidance for the two countries’ cooperation. Besides, based on the experience, perception and feelings of my engagement and out-reach with all walks of life of Nigeria, I proposed the Nigeria-China 5-GIST Growth, Development and Progress Strategy, aiming at advancing bilateral relations and cooperation in the next 50 years in a holistic, systematic and comprehensive manner. This strategy has received overwhelming support from both Nigeria and China, and catalyzed our future cooperation.
Trade acts as the engine for cooperation. In 2021, despite the adverse impact of the pandemic, China-Nigeria trade reached 25.68 billion USD, rising 33.3% year on year, and Nigeria’s exports to China reached 3.04 billion USD, rising 22.4% year on year. From 2016 to 2021, this bilateral trade increased by nearly 142%. According to uncompleted statistics, in the first ten months of 2022, the bilateral trade volume reached 20.04 billion USD. Currently, Nigeria is China’s third largest trading partner in Africa, and China is Nigeria’s largest source of imports.
Investment and contracted projects inject impetus for cooperation. Nigeria is one of the African countries attracting the most investment from China. By 2021, cumulative investment has exceeded 20 billion USD, mainly in construction of free-trade and export-processing zones, oil extraction, home appliances and vehicle assembly, agricultural production, etc. The two free trade zones, Lekki FTZ and Ogun-Guangdong FTZ, have attracted investment of more than 1.51 billion USD and created more than 7,000 jobs opportunities. China is the leading contributor to Nigeria’s infrastructure development. More than 20 Chinese companies are participating in the construction of major projects concerning the economy and people’s livelihood in Nigeria, comprising of railways, roads, electricity, ICT and oil refineries. The Abuja-Kaduna Railway, the Lagos-Ibadan Railway, the new airport terminals, the Lekki deep seaport, the Zungeru Hydropower Station, etc., are making important boosts to the economic and social development of Nigeria.
Development assistance provides guarantee for cooperation. At outset of the pandemic, China was the first to offer relief materials in support of Nigeria’s fight against the pandemic. Last year, the new ECOWAS Headquarter building project and the second phase of the Abuja Traffic Lights project have been officially started, and the agricultural technology demonstration center was officially handed over to the Nigerian competent authority. China will continue to support Nigerian people’s pursuit of better life.
Harmony-symphony Initiative stimulates vitality of cooperation. The work and life experience in Nigeria has left with me a deep feeling that, harmony is indeed a common value pursued and cherished by both societies in Nigeria and China, which performs a natural bond for the furtherance of our bilateral cooperation.
For the wide application of this harmony philosophy, I put forward the Initiative of Sharing Chinese Harmony and Performing Nigeria-China Symphony early last year, which was warmly received from governmental agencies to academic sector in both countries. The structure of this Initiative is summarized as “four beams and eight columns”. The “four beams” refer to Harmony in Coexistence, Harmony in Integration, Harmony in Diversity, and Harmony in Development. The “eight columns” refer to Kindness& Harmony of Citizen&Nature; Happiness&Friendliness of Family&Society, Unity&Concordance of Nation&Culture, and Peace&Consonance of State&Governance. With this Initiative, the mutual understanding for cooperation between Nigeria and China has been deepened, the foundation of cooperation has been enhanced and the level of cooperation has been scaled up.
Why could Nigeria and China keep such robust relations and fruitful bilateral cooperation? In my view, Nigeria-China cooperation is the epitome of Africa-China relations. Its essence was summarized by President Xi as the everlasting spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation, at the opening session of the 8th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation(FOCAC) held in November 2021. This spirit features sincere friendship and equality, win-win for mutual benefit and common development, fairness and justice, and progress with the times and openness and inclusiveness. At the session, President Xi also proposed to jointly build a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era, which was unanimously endorsed by African participants.
As a proverb goes, “if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together”. Over the course of pursuing common development and world peace, Nigeria and China should always be good friends and good partners who share weal and woe. Under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, China will adhere to the principles of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith and pursuing the greater good and shared interests, and work together with Nigeria to advance high-quality cooperation and contribute to building a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era.
The year of 2023, according to the Chinese lunar calendar, is the Year of Rabbit, being a symbol of earnestness, optimism, wittiness, longevity and prosperity. As the Chinese new year celebration, also known as the Spring Festival, is approaching later this month, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all Nigerian friends and the Chinese community in Nigeria a happy, healthy and prosperous Chinese new year.
•CUI Jianchun is Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria