By Zhao Yong
On February 10, 1971, China and Nigeria established diplomatic relations. This year marks the 50th anniversary of our diplomatic ties. For the past five decades and especially after the establishment of the strategic partnership in 2005, the all-dimensional, wide-ranging and high-quality bilateral cooperation has been a pacesetter in China-Africa cooperation. In recent years, under the strategic guidance and personal attention of President Xi Jinping and President Muhammadu Buhari, the brotherly relationship between China and Nigeria has reached new heights unmatched in history, bringing tangible benefits to our two countries and peoples.
The past 50 years have witnessed our increasingly enhanced political mutual trust. On October 1, 1960, Nigeria declared its independence. On the same day, the Chinese government recognized the political independence of Nigeria. In 1971, Nigeria with other African countries firmly supported China’s restoration of its legitimate seat in the UN. In recent years, the two countries have enjoyed frequent high-level exchanges and enhanced mutual trust, putting China-Nigeria relations on a fast track development. In 2017, then Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi paid his first and successful official visit to Nigeria. In 2018, President Buhari was the very first head of state President Xi Jinping met with bilaterally after the FOCAC Beijing Summit, and Nigeria formally joined the big family of the Belt and Road Initiative by signing a governmental MoU. In 2019, President Xi’s special envoy Yang Jiechi paid a visit to Nigeria and held fruitful discussions with President Buhari. In 2020, President Buhari attended the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19.
The past 50 years have witnessed substantial progress in our mutually beneficial cooperation. In 2019, the two-way trade between China and Nigeria reached 19.27 billion US dollars, which was around 1900 times that of 1971 when the diplomatic ties was established. And the trade growth rate was 26.3%, ranking first among China’s top 40 trading partners. In 2000, Nigeria’s trade with China accounted for a merely 1% of the total of Nigeria’s foreign trade. Nowadays, China is one of Nigeria’s top trade partners. In the area infrastructure, there are so many examples of mutually beneficial cooperation, such as Abuja-Kaduna Railway, Lagos-Ibadan Railway, Abuja Light Rail, airport terminals in Abuja and Port Harcourt.
The past 50 years have also witnessed the thriving of cultural and people-to-people exchanges. As the most populous countries in the world and Africa respectively, there is an enormous potential in the area of people-to-people and cultural exchanges between China and Nigeria. The Spring Festival Temple Fair, which has been held in Abuja for 4 consecutive years, attracted more and more local people. In 2019, the number of Nigerian students studying in China rose to 6800, which stands first in all African countries. Many of them covered by a wide variety of scholarships, studying for their master and doctorate degrees in engineering, medicine, agriculture and other majors.
2020 is an extraordinary year. In the common fight against COVID-19, China and Nigeria supported each other from the beginning. President Buhari commended China’s efforts in fighting against COVID-19 in his statement of solidarity as early as February 2. When the pandemic broke out in Nigeria, China was among the first to offer help, and has sent medical supplies and shared experience on treating COVID-19. The mutual support between the China and Nigeria vividly proves that solidarity and cooperation is the most powerful weapon to defeat COVID-19.
Today, the world is being shaped by changes unseen in a century, a process accelerated by COVID-19. China is prepared to be a partner of Nigeria to stand up to challenges. At this critical juncture and on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of China-Nigeria diplomatic relations, H.E. Wang Yi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister of China is going to visit Nigeria for the second time in 4 years, which will definitely uplift the China-Nigeria strategic partnership to new heights.
• (Mr. Zhao Yong is Chargé D’Affaires of the Embassy of China in Nigeria)