By Ochiaka Ugwu
The People’s Republic of China values its relations with Nigeria as the largest developing country in Africa, the Charge de’ Affairs of the People’s Republic of China to Nigeria, Mr. Zhao Yong has said.
Mr. Zhao who made this known in his opening remarks at the FOCAC@ 20 Seminar organized by Centre for China Studies (CCS) in Abuja to mark the 20th Anniversary of the establishment of the forum said the past 20 years has been a journey of productive cooperation between China and Africa noting that in 2019 alone, direct Chinese investment stock in Africa topped US$49.1 billion up by nearly 100 times from the year 2000.
Zhao said that he feel proud that China has been proved to be a strategic partner of Nigeria in its pursuit of peace and prosperity.
“As the largest developing country in the world, China highly values its relations with Nigeria, the largest developing country in Africa. Over the past two decades, the all-round, wide-ranging and high-quality bilateral cooperation between China and Nigeria has been a pace-setter for China-Africa Cooperation.
“The political foundation of our relations has been cemented. Under the strategic guidance and personal commitment of President Xi Jinping and President Buhari, the political trust between our two countries has been significantly deepened.
“In 2018, President Buhari was the very first head of state President Xi Jinping met with bilaterally after Beijing Summit. In 2019, President Xi’s special envoy Yang Jiechi paid a visit to Nigeria and held fruitful discussions with President Buhari. In June this year, President Buhari attended the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-l9 and commended China’s support to Nigeria.
“The two leaders exchanged congratulatory messages to celebrate October 1, the same national holiday for China and Nigeria.
‘Practical cooperation has been fruitful within the framework of FOCAC. Nigeria remains China’s largest project-contracting market, largest export market, second largest trading partner, and major investment destination in Africa.
‘In 2019, the bilateral trade volume was $19.27 billion with an ‘annual increase of 26.3 per cent which came first among China’s top 40 trading partners. Many flagship projects -the Abuja-Kaduna Railway, the Abuja Light Rail, the airport terminals in Abuja and Port Harcourt, the Ogun Guandong and Lekki Free Trade Zones, the University of Transportation in Daura to name a few -have been completed and put into use.
“People-to-people exchanges have been thriving. In 2019, the number of Nigerian students study in China rose to 6800, which stands first in all African countries. Many of them have been covered by a wide variety of scholarships.
“More and more Nigerian students choose to study Chinese in their universities and many universities are about to establish Confucius Institute in the near future. Mutual support on anti-pandemic has been further strengthened. The people of China and Nigeria have been helping and supporting each other, and pulling together in times of difficulties.
“President Buhari commended China’s efforts in fighting against COVID-l9 in his statement of solidarity as early as February 2. Since the outbreak of COVID-l9 in Nigeria, China stood firmly with our Nigerian friends through providing governmental medical supplies, and sharing experience on treating COVID-19” he said.
Mr. Stephen Awuru, a Senior Counselor with ASIA and Pacific Division in Nigerian Foreign Ministry noted that FOCAC has brought rapid development in Africa at an accelerated rate since its establishment and expressed hope that China relation with Nigeria will deepen more in no long a time.
He said that China has succeeded in building community shared future of all humanity.
Prof. Gani Yoroma of the National Defense College in Nigeria said that China’s military cooperation with Africa was highly strategic and that China has emphasized its readiness to fight Covid-19 in relation to Africa.
Yoroma said China should be appreciated for its contribution on international peace keeping as it has contributed about 8000 soldiers in recent times.
Also speaking, the Director of Centre for China Studies, Charles Onunaiju in his opening noted that the establishment of FOCAC was a watershed in China, Africa relations maintaining that it was a historic response for more international collaboration.
He informed that FOCAC is a model and has delivered practical results as no single moment has been lost the activities of the forum since its formation.
He stressed the need for Africa to keep more positive paradigm in the forum given the fact that it was a partnership that is both willing and able.