By Lawal Sale
Recently, the Federal Government of Nigeria took a final decision and reaffirmed its commitment to “One China Policy”.
Not many know that there is no difference between the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan; for decades, Taiwan has been tricking the public in Nigeria and beyond with the name Republic of China or ROC. Republic of China is not known to the United Nations (UN) and cannot exist when there is the “main China” which is Peoples Republic of China. There can never be two Chinas.
One China Policy is a principle that implies both mainland China and Taiwan are inalienable parts of a single sovereign China. In January 2017, the Federal Government made a significant and historic move when Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, announced to the world during a joint press conference with the visiting Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi that Nigeria would no longer allow Taiwan continue to operate in Nigeria as a country with an unofficial embassy but would be committed to One China Policy.
According to Mr. Onyeama, Nigeria has communicated to Taiwan and they are moving to Lagos as soon as possible.
He added that “Taiwan will stop enjoying any privileges because it is not a country that is recognized under international law and under the position; we have taken decision to abide by One China Policy.”
He further reiterated that the steps taken were to right the wrong that one could not say how it came.
During Mr. Wang’s visit, a Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries was signed in respect of Nigeria’s commitment to One China Policy. Nigeria’s support of One China Policy however, means Peoples Republic of China is the sole legal authority undertaking diplomacy and other bilateral relations.
As a follow-up and as part of its drive to strengthen and deepen the existing bilateral relations between the two countries, the Federal Government through the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) dispatched an official communications (circular) in December 2017 to all the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) directing them against further engaging Taiwan or its recognition as a country.
The circular warns officials against recognizing Taiwan and ‘reaffirms government’s position on the One China Policy’.
According to the circular, and for clarity, “the Federal Government recognizes that Beijing remains the only seat of government representing the whole of China and Taiwan is an inalienable part of its territory”.
It further stated that in effect, the Federal Government of Nigeria does not recognize Taiwan as an independent territory.
Accordingly, Mr. President has directed that the term “Republic of China” or Taiwan shall not be used in any official communication and pronouncement.
Prior to the governments final resolution on One China Policy and its directive to its agencies, Taiwan which was initially granted access to Nigeria by the then military administration in 1991 to establish a trade and cultural office in Lagos, surreptitiously metamorphosed its Lagos trade office into a quasi-embassy in Abuja ten years later.
It continued to operate an “unofficial” embassy until when the present government led by President Muhammadu Buhari issued it a marching order to shut its Abuja office and relocate to Lagos as trade office.
Nigeria and the People’s Republic of China diplomatic relations date back to 46 years and the two developing countries share many things in common including Nigeria being the most populous in Africa and China the most populous in the world.
Similarly, while China is the 2ndlargest economy in the world, Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa.
China is also one of the countries that have been in full support of reforms in United Nations that would see Africa having two seats at the UN Security Council which Nigeria is contesting.
Undoubtedly, China is one of the most technologically advanced countries and a super power which Nigeria tends to gain more in maintaining a strong relationship with Beijing than with Taipei.
China also command a considerable market for Nigeria’s oil exports and it has demonstrated high commitment towards keeping its position as biggest buyer of Nigeria’s crude oil. Trade volume between the two countries according to the Chinese officials in Abuja stands at 12.4 billion USD by November 2017.
Cooperation between Nigeria and China has also been upgraded to a “strategic partnership” where mutual interest, mutual benefit and peoples to peoples mutual respect are the core – this is in order to achieve win-win result for common development of the two countries.
Nigeria in its infrastructural development drive has been attracting Chinese investors and companies in areas of road infrastructure, railway modernization, energy, agriculture, communications, airports, manufacturing sectors as well as free trade zones and industrial parks.
According to statistics from Chinese officials in Nigeria, there are over 40 Chinese core investors and companies operating in Nigeria. Educational, scientific and cultural exchanges are also areas the two countries actively partner.
Other areas of cooperation with China is its commitment to implement the resolutions adopted at the 2015 Johannesburg summit of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) which Nigeria is a partner and beneficiary of China’s magnanimity to assist African countries with funds to build infrastructure.
Nigeria is also expected to key into the Chinese Belt and Road initiative.
China, through President Xi Jinping, had earlier pledged the sum of 60 billion USD during the Johannesburg FOCAC summit.
Ten major areas were identified as priority to African countries (Nigeria inclusive).
The cooperation and economic engagement between China and Nigeria has created significant benefits for Nigeria which is also a catalyst for the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s change and diversification agenda.
— Lawal Sale writes from Abuja.