“China-Africa relations have today reached a stage of growth, unmatched in history. We should scale the heights, look afar and take bold steps”- President Xi Jinping (2015).
By Charles Onunaiju
More than two years, since Chinese leader, President Xi Jinping summarized the phenomenal level, China-Africa have then attained, and urged for the relations to aspire to new and higher “heights”, Nigeria and China took “bold steps”, last week to nudge the bilateral relation between them to new heights, thereby scoring major success in extending the frontier of Sino-Africa Cooperation. As a work in progress, the China-Africa Cooperation by the range of issues it has covered and the intensity of its engagement, is considerably phenomenal but still at a primary stage of its development, with profound potentials and prospects in the distant future, if both sides continue to “take bold steps and look afar”.
Last week in Abuja, between August 10th and 11th, the visit of Chinese senior official, the vice minister of the state council information office, Mr. Guo Weimin and his delegation to Abuja, added fresh momentum to the dynamism and vigor of the existing bilateral cooperation between Nigeria and China.
His wide ranging activities while in Nigeria and the enthusiasm with which the Nigerian side welcomed and engaged him, demonstrated the unique bond of bilateral cooperation and the far-reaching prospects of the continuous strengthening of the bilateral ties for both, the two countries and the wider Sino-African Co-operation.
The Chinese vice minister, Guo Weimin undertook his first assignment in Nigeria not in the posh prescient of the state house but in the far-flung community of Hulumi village, where he launched the satellite television project, as part of the ten cooperation plans that president Xi Jinping outlined at the historic second summit of the heads of state and government of the forum on China-Africa Cooperation, (FOCAC) which held in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2015.
In the ninth of the ten plans, president Xi has said that “we will implement China-Africa Cultural and People to People Plans”, from among which China will “provide satellite Television reception to 10,000 African villages”. In carrying the launch of the satellite Television project in Hulumi village in the federal capital territory of Abuja, the vice minister and his team fulfilled one of the major outcomes of the second Johannesburg summit of FOCAC and further underscored the reputation of the FOCAC process as exemplary framework and mechanism of international cooperation best known for timely delivery of results in its summit’s or conference decisions and outcomes. In Hulumi village itself, emotions overflowed as villagers thanked China for taken the measures that would connect them to the outside world.
From the Hulumi village, Mr. Guo Weimin and his delegation walked into the warm embrace of almost 50 media practitioners and think tanks who gathered for media dialogue between Nigeria and China, hosted by the chairman of Leadership group, publisher of the Abuja-based national daily newspaper, the leadership newspaper, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah. The Leadership group Chairman in his opening remarks at the dialogue, said that China-Nigeria relations has covered crucial mileage but has great potential and pointed that media cooperation between the two sides could play outstanding roles in extending the frontiers of the bilateral
cooperation. He recalled fondly China’s achievements, paying tributes to China’s commitment to her cooperation with Africa and urged the media to continuously explore ways to nurture the understanding between China and Nigeria. The opening comments of the host of the forum, opened the flood gates of commentaries by participants on the ways, bilateral cooperation between Nigeria and China can be strengthened.
There was unanimity among participants that China is reliable and consistent partner of Nigeria, and that such partnership based on equality and mutual respect for each other, have yielded lots of positive results.
The Chinese vice minister of the state council information office, said that the Chinese side is determined to expand media ties with Nigeria, with a view to strengthen the strategic partnership that already exist between the two countries. According to him, promoting media ties was one of the ten cooperation plans which president Xi Jinping outlined at the 2nd summit in Johannesburg in 2015, and has therefore come to Abuja to engage diverse stake holders on how to deepen cooperation in the very vital aspect of China-Nigeria cooperation in particular and China-Africa relation in general.
According to Mr. Guo Weimin, as China’s relationship with Africa formed the “cornerstone of the foreign policy” of Chinese government, “the purpose of my visit is to implement important agreements that were reached between the Chinese and Nigerian presidents on developing the strategic partnerships of China-Nigeria relation.”
He added that “mass media serves the most special and important part introducing the China-Nigeria cooperation, recording the China-Nigeria exchanges and spreading friendship. He further pointed out that the media of both countries have crucial roles to play in promoting people-to people relations between both countries and being a positive voice for developing nations in the struggle to bridge the information gap with the advanced developed countries.
According to him, “we will continue to tap into the rich content of China-Nigeria friendship cooperation to broadcast and spread the most touching stories to the world, to broadcast and report the lively cooperation results between our two countries.”
The deputy ambassador of the Chinese embassy in Nigeria, Mr. Li Jing has earlier recalled that Nigerian media has already benefited from one of the China-Africa ten cooperation plans, reached at the FOCAC summit in South Africa, where China offered to train 1,000 media professionals from Africa annually.
The media dialogue ended with a glowing tribute to ambassador of the Peoples Republic of China to Nigeria, Dr. Zhou Pingjian, whose several scholarly interventions in public discourse of the issues in the Nigeria-China bilateral cooperation have brought lots of clarity and has given the media ample and considerable impetus to report more factually and objectively on the relations between the two countries.
Despite that the exhaustive but the constructive media dialogue stretched far beyond its original schedule, the visiting Chinese vice minister and his delegation were on hand, the next day to sign the memorandum of understanding, (MoU) with the Nigeria minister of information and culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed in the area of media and cultural relation, a crucial milestone in the bilateral cooperation between the two countries. Nigeria’s minister of information and culture at the signing ceremony said that the signing of the MoU will further deepen the already excellent relationship between the two countries, and expressed the hope that some provisions of the MoU would encourage the News Agencies of Nigeria and China to reflect in their reporting the social, economic and cultural development in both countries. On his side, the Chinese vice minister, Mr. Guo Weimin said that the signing of the MOU marked a new beginning in the relationship between the two countries, particularly in the area of media and cultural relations, adding that staff training and programme exchanges will further solidify the cultural ties between the two countries, as he concluded his highly successful visit to Nigeria.
The new momentum in China-Nigeria cooperation and the wider China-Africa relations is coming in the heels of the crucial 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in the later part of this year. The highly anticipated national congress of the CPC, will consolidate and advance the progress made in deepening reforms and opening up policy, with China engaging more widely and intensely with the rest of the world. Already the China-Initiated Belt and Road process, a global system of inter-connectivity of infrastructure networks, people-to-people contacts and cultural engagements are taking shape as the emerging global architecture for more functional, cooperative and inclusive order and the dimension of Nigeria-China relations can make meaningful contributions to it, it grows in strength and vigour.
– Mr. Onunaiju, director, Centre for China Studies, (CCS), Abuja-Nigeria.