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OPINION

BRI: Walk Together Towards Prosperity

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Today, 10 February 2019, marks the 48th anniversary of China-Nigeria diplomatic relations. China-Nigeria relations are at their best time in history.

Both China and Nigeria are major developing countries of great influence in the world. Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1971 and strategic partnership in 2005 in particular between China and Nigeria, the all-round, wide-ranging and high-quality bilateral cooperation has been a pace-setter and model for China-Africa cooperation. The friendship and cooperation between China and Nigeria have delivered tangible benefits to our two peoples.

In recent years, China-Nigeria political mutual trust has been enhanced significantly and mutually beneficial cooperation has yielded fruitful results with broad prospects through the joint efforts of both sides.

In 2018, China-Nigeria Cooperation has made fruitful and prominent achievements. The commissioning of Abuja Light Railway and the new airport terminals in Port Harcourt and Abuja, the flag-off of Abuja-Keffi-Lafia-Makurdi Road, the ongoing construction of Zungeru Hydropower Plant as well as Lagos-Ibadan Railway and Lekki Deep Seaport, the booming Ogun Guandong and Lekki Free Trade Zones, the fruitful promotion of the “Made in Nigeria with China” initiative, the signing of China-Nigeria Currency Swap Deal, the port call of Frigate Yancheng to Lagos, etc…We are glad to note that China-Nigeria relations have reached a stage of rapid growth unmatched in history.

Last September, President Muhammadu Buhari attended the FOCAC Beijing Summit and Nigeria made great contribution to the complete success of the Summit. President Xi Jinping and President Buhari reached important consensus on furthering bilateral ties. China and Nigeria signed a governmental MoU on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The Belt and Road is China’s initiative, but it belongs to the world and benefits all. It aims to enhance connectivity among countries and regions, promote interconnected development, and creat new space for global growth. The BRI has won wide international endorsement since President Xi put forward it in 2013. China has signed BRI cooperation documents with over 160 countries and international organizations, and a large number of cooperation projects have been launched under the BRI.

The BRI is an open platform for cooperation. Guided by the principle of consultation and collaboration for shared benefits, the BRI is not designed to serve any hidden geopolitical agenda and targeted against anyone. It is not an exclusive club that is closed to non-members, nor is a “trap” as some people labeled it. Rather, the BRI is a major and transparent initiative with which China shares opportunities and pursues shared development with the rest of the world.

The BRI is not meant to reinvent the wheel. By adhering to openness and inclusiveness, it is not China’s solo show, but a symphony performed by an orchestra composed of all participating countries and partners.

Africa is an extension of the Belt and Road development historically and naturally and an important participant in the initiative. China stands ready to strengthen comprehensive cooperation with the African countries in jointly building the Belt and Road to share the win-win outcomes. The China-Africa cooperation under the BRI targets inadequate infrastructure and other key constraints on Africa’s development, “with funds to be used where they count most.”

China follows a “five-no” approach in its relations with Africa. Under the BRI, we remain firmly committed to the “five-no” approach: no interference in African countries’ pursuit of development paths that fit their national conditions; no interference in African countries internal affairs; no imposition of our will on African countries; no attachment of political strings to assistance to Africa; and no seeking of selfish political gains in investment and financing cooperation with Africa. China and Africa’s joint building of the Belt and Road completely follows established international rules and China is ready to strengthen third-party cooperation with any country that has the capability and the intent.

The year of 2019 is the first year that Nigeria formally joins the big family of the BRI. What can we do to seize new opportunities and grow China-Nigeria cooperation under the BRI?

We need to step up connectivity. The BRI and the connectivity endeavor are compatible and mutually reinforcing. With the implementation of the initiative now entering a stage of pragmatic cooperation, based on the prominent achievements China and Nigeria acquired in infrastructure as well as production capacity and investment cooperation, enhancing policy coordination to have a multiplying effect on cooperation is of greater importance. We should have full discussions on policies, adopt plans and measures for advancing bilateral cooperation through consultation in the spirit of seeking common ground while setting aside differences, and give the policy and legal “green light” to bilateral cooperation under the BRI.

We need to expand integration of development. The BRI aims to leverage the comparative strengths of the countries involved and coordinate their development strategies. As the largest developing country in the world, China takes pride in its ever stronger partnership with Nigeria, the largest developing country in Africa. We should take advantage of the BRI to enhance cooperation in infrastructure, industrial capacity and manufacturing, and combine the joint building of the BRI with Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) as well as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations and the Agenda 2063 of the African Union to make new planning for win-win cooperation and open up new prospects for interconnected development. For that I’m sure there is great potential in “Made in Nigeria with China” under the BRI.

We need to deepen understanding between our peoples. Friendship between peoples is the key to good relations between states. The enormous potential in the area of people-to-people and cultural exchange has yet to be fully tapped in contrast to the huge population of our two countries. To implement the BRI, we must foster an atmosphere in which people of China and Nigeria appreciate, understand and respect each other. Closer people-to-people ties represent an important element of the BRI as well as a popular and cultural foundation. We should further strengthen exchanges and cooperation in areas of science and technology, education, cultural, sports and health, so as to lay a good social foundation for the development of the BRI.

We need to enhance security cooperation. Africa today, though facing risks and challenges, remains one of the most dynamic and promising regions in the world. China will work with Nigeria to speed up the implementation of the BRI and play its part to ensure that development and security in Africa facilitate each other and are mutually reinforcing.

On 1 October 2019, China will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) will be held in Beijing in April. China stands ready to work with Nigeria to implement the outcomes of the FOCAC Beijing Summit and the Eight Major Initiatives promptly and efficiently so as to elevate our strategic partnership to a new level and bring greater benefits to our two countries and peoples.

 

– Zhou Pingjian is Ambassador of China to Nigeria).


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