The Federal Republic of Nigeria and the People’s Republic of China formally established diplomatic relations in February 1971. This development was precipitated by the vision of the then government of General Yakubu Gowon to embrace the Asian giant that was soon to become a global economic and regional power.
Nigeria went ahead to deepen the bilateral relations with China when it led about 25 other African countries to make up to 76 countries that supported the restoration of the lawful seat of the People’s Republic of China in the United Nations (UN). This was backed by the adoption of Resolution 2758 at the 26th Session of the UN General Assembly on October 25, 1971.
This Resolution and the overwhelming decision by countries of the world restored all rights of the People’s Republic of China in the UN and recognized the representatives of the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the only legitimate representatives of China to the UN. This was after the forces of the Communist Party of China (CPC) defeated the nationalist party of Chiang Kai-shek and reunited the country with the declaration of independence on October1, 1949.
During his speech to mark the 50th anniversary of the Restoration of the lawful seat of China in the UN, Chinese President Xi Jinping praised the development as “victory for the Chinese people and a victory for people of the world.”
He said that the restoration “came as the result of joint efforts of all peace-loving countries that stood for justice in the world. It marked the return of the Chinese people, or one-fourth of the world’s population, back to the UN stage.”
This development has and far-reaching implications for both China, Nigeria and the wider world as China has steadily engaged Nigeria and African countries in its peaceful development, commitment and dedication to the welfare of all humanity and upholding multilateralism with respect to the sovereignty of nations devoid of unwarranted hegemony.
President Xi highlighted the common Chinese principle to build a community with a shared future for mankind, which is about countries with different social systems, ideologies, histories, cultures and levels of development coming together for shared responsibilities in global affairs and creating the greatest synergy for building a better world.
China has built its economy through reforms and opening up with socialism that has Chinese characteristics anchored on science, technology and innovation. Its enormous successes manifested in China lifting nearly 1 billion people out of extreme poverty in a period of 40 years and powering on to become the second largest economy in the world and the global hub of manufacturing.
China has reciprocated the support of Nigeria and other African countries at multilateral levels as it has committed huge sums of money and support to build and expand Africa’s infrastructure with the launch of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000.
Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Cui Jianchun recently said that the eighth Ministerial Conference of FOCAC will be held in Senegal in late November.
He emphasized that since its establishment over 21 years ago, FOCAC has intensified high-level interactions and political trust between China and Africa, delivering a leap in Sino-Africa relations and helping African countries to address infrastructure deficits.
He said “Africa and China have stepped up mutual support on issues involving each other’s core interests and major concerns, work together for greater democracy in international relations, stay committed to multilateralism and align global governance reforms with the common interests of developing countries.”
With the launch of the Belt and Roads Initiative (BRI) China has offered the world new opportunities through infrastructure connectivity.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres spoke highly of China’s contributions. He said “I thank China for upholding multilateralism, supporting the UN’s work, and playing a major part and making significant contributions to promoting world peace and development.
“The United Nations highly appreciates the vital role played by China in eradicating poverty, tackling global climate change, protecting biodiversity, and making COVID-19 vaccines global public goods.
Nigerian analyst and Director of Abuja-based Centre for China Studies, Charles Onunaiju, said recently that Nigeria has a lot to learn from the historical trajectory of China and chart a new way that is “unique to the Nigerian circumstance.”
After 50 years of bilateral ties with China, Nigeria ranks among the top 40 of China’s trading partners globally and its major investment destination in Africa. Nigeria has surpassed Angola and South Africa to become China’s second largest trading partner and the largest export market in Africa.
The future prospects of Nigeria-China cooperation look bright. At the moment trade volume between both countries has hit about $20 billion despite the debilitating impacts of the COVID-19.
The Ogun-Guandong Free Trade zone and Lekki Free Trade zone have attracted a large number of Chinese companies to invest in and operate in their businesses.
Chinese firms have also constructed the thriving Abuja-Kaduna rail lines and built major road arteries across the federation, from which Nigerians have acquired technical competence and job opportunities.