Wednesday, 6th December 2023

Bridge builders for China-Nigeria cooperation

By Yan Yuqing
24 July 2023   |   3:40 am
In May of this year, I arrived in beautiful Lagos to assume my duties as the eighth Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Lagos.

Yan Yuqing

In May of this year, I arrived in beautiful Lagos to assume my duties as the eighth Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Lagos. For me, this is the first time in my diplomatic career to take a mission to Africa, which makes me deeply honored to shoulder this responsibility. Even though I have been here for just a few weeks, I have been deeply impressed by the warmth and hospitality of the Nigerian people and the inspiring achievements of China-Nigeria practical cooperation in various fields.

At the very beginning of my term of office, I had a frank discussion with friends in the Nigerian media. Among the many questions they raised for me, the following ones are most thought-provoking: what are the opportunities and challenges facing the bilateral cooperation between China and Africa, especially with Nigeria? How can we cope with them? My answer to these questions is simple and clear: the challenges are enormous, so let’s address them together; the opportunities are abundant, so let’s work hard to make full use of them.

No matter how the international situation evolves, China has always been there for Africa. This year marks the tenth anniversary of President Xi Jinping’s putting forward the principles of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith, and of pursuing the greater good and shared interests in developing China’s relations with Africa, as well as the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative. Over the past ten years, China-Africa relations have entered a new era of a stronger China-Africa community with a shared future. Leaders of the two sides visit each other as often as relatives do, and the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation is as alive as ever across the vast lands of China and Africa. China has remained Africa’s largest trading partner for 14 consecutive years. Mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Africa brings more benefits to our people. China actively promotes the Outlook on Peace and Development in the Horn of Africa, and Africa commits to its just position and to the “One China” principle. China and Africa enjoy stronger coordination on international affairs, serving as an important force for international fairness and justice.

The past decade witnessed the rapid development of China-Nigeria relations under the joint attention and promotion of the leaders of the two countries. Bilateral trade reached USD 23.9 billion in 2022 and was already approaching USD 5.4 billion in the first quarter of 2023. In spite of the impact of Covid-19, Nigeria maintains its position as China’s largest civil engineering contracting market, second largest export destination, third largest trading partner and major investment destination. Meanwhile, China is the largest exporter of goods to Nigeria. China and Nigeria communities built a deep friendship in the collective efforts against Covid-19, and performed Nigeria-China Symphony while sharing Chinese Harmony.

The consular district of the Chinese Consulate General in Lagos, which covers 20 states in southern Nigeria, is vast in territory, rich in natural resources with vibrant and talented population. China and all the 20 states in the district have been working together to promote High-Quality Development of Belt and Road Cooperation, and many landmark construction projects by Nigeria-based Chinese enterprises have emerged one after another, greatly improving the infrastructure conditions and business environment in Nigeria, such as the Lekki Deep Sea Port, Lagos Rail Mass Transit and Lagos-Ibadan Railway. Chinese technological enterprises are actively engaging themselves with Nigeria in communication technology, advancing the development of Nigeria’s digital economy and mobile payment. At the same time, Chinese enterprises in new energy and new materials are making contribution to the industrial upgrading of Nigeria. The Lekki Free Trade Zone, the Ogun Guangdong Free Trade Zone and various other industrial parks are growing in size. Chinese technology, Chinese equipment, Chinese experience, Chinese speed, Chinese quality and Chinese solutions press the “acceleration button” for Nigeria’s economic development, and put the China-Nigeria mutually beneficial cooperation the “fast track”.

At present, new opportunities are opening up for both China and Nigeria, while both sides are standing at a new historical starting point. With the modernization of over 1.4 billion Chinese people through peaceful development, China is bound to give a stronger impetus and more opportunities to the growth of the African and global economies. Just as Professor Charles Onunaiju, Director of the Center for China Studies of Nigeria, puts it, Chinese path to modernization has set a good example for the world, especially for African countries. Currently, the African continent is facing many challenges. We hope to understand the Chinese Modernization and learn from China’s experience in sustainable development. We aim to promote more pragmatic cooperation within the framework of Africa-China cooperation. Dr. Olalekan A. Babatunde, a research fellow at the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution of Nigeria, also states that China is a good partner for Africa in its quest for modernization. Through the Belt and Road Initiative and the Global Development Initiative, China helps Africa ensure food and energy security, create more job opportunities, and promote economic and social development.

The opportunities arising from Chinese Modernization will certainly benefit the 200 million Nigerian people. China is willing to work together with the new Nigeria Federal Government to strengthen the development strategy dialogue, enhance close contacts at various levels, firmly support each other, expand pragmatic cooperation in all aspects, and promote the development of China-Nigeria strategic partnership to a deeper and higher level. The Chinese and Nigerian communities ought to deepen mutual comprehension and enhance consensus.  In the press, I have seen some false statements and even vicious slander against China and the cooperation between China and Nigeria. The so-called

“China Threat Theory”, “China’s exploitation of resources in Africa” and “China’s Neo-colonialism in Africa” have muddled the picture. On the third day of my term of office, I attended a completion ceremony for the reconstruction of a small square in Lagos State. This charity project was funded by Chinese enterprises, although not large in scale, greatly improved the living conditions of the people in the surrounding area and received their sincere praise. An elderly wheelchair-bound man attended the ceremony and said in passion that the Chinese people did not seek selfish gains, but always did practical and good things for us, and they were our true friends. I believe such examples are strong rebuttals to the “China Threat Theory”. I believe that more and more Nigerians will realize that Chinese enterprises and nationals are making investments in Nigeria with love and care, and that what China is doing in Nigeria is for the sake of a better life for the Nigerian people.

As an ancient Chinese saying goes, “Without achieving the good of one hundred various schools, the uniqueness of one individual cannot be achieved.” A Nigerian proverb says, “No matter how far a stream flows, it can never forget its source”. No civilization in the world is superior to others; every civilization is special and unique to its own region. As President Xi Jinping says, “Chinese modernization, as a new form of human advancement, will draw upon the merits of other civilizations and make the garden of world civilizations more vibrant.” Not long ago, my Nigerian friends picked a local name for me, Uche, which means will, faith and hope, and I think it reflects the shared traits of Chinese and Nigerian civilizations and the common pursuit of the Chinese and Nigerians. I will do my best to realise this wonderful wish.

As the Nigerian proverb goes, “In a moment of crisis, the wise build bridges and foolish build dams.” It is admittedly true that while the China-Nigeria relationship has grown significantly in various fields, it has also been faced with many new challenges. I am confident that together with Chinese institutions and enterprises, the Chinese community, Nigerians who have studied in China and friends from all walks of life in the consular district, we will be wise bridge builders, address risks and challenges, share development opportunities and promote the strategic partnership between China and Nigeria to new heights.

Yuqing, is Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Lagos.