The federal Republic of Nigeria and The People’s Republic of China share strong symbolic identities as one obtained independence and the other secured national liberation on the 1st of October in 1960 and 1949 respectively. China is the largest developing nation in the world, just as Nigeria is the largest developing country in Africa.
A diplomatic cooperation established in 1971 between the two countries have nurtured profound and dynamic exchanges and since 2005, transformed into a quality brand of ‘strategic partnership’.
The Nigeria-China cooperation has deepened considerably and constitutes a strategic pivot to the dynamic prospects of China-Africa relation.
As a think tank committed to the scholarly interrogation of China and her broad cooperation with Nigeria in particular and Africa in general, we view with concerns some recent issues relating to the outbreak of the Covid-19 and the ramifications of several measures adopted by different countries to control and contain the virus.
Both China and Nigeria are currently in the line of vigorously combating and containing the virus.
The novel measures adopted by some countries to combat the novel virus, have brought enormous pressure on normal lives of citizens and also some visitors. This is to be expected as such pandemic control measures like quarantine, social and physical distancing and wide restriction of movements is now universal tool in the combat against the highly infectious disease. Nigerians and other African travelling to Guangzhou, the Chinese coastal city have been part of its social and cultural fabric.
As the city battles to rein in the spread of the virus, some of its control strategies as a matter of common sense would bring some discomfort not only to visitors but also the resident population.
The victory of national liberation in 1949 heralded the birth of modern China, who had century earlier, endured the worst abuses of domination, partition and plunder.
The revolution that culminated in national liberation opened a bright new chapter for the country. The relations between China and Africa states blossomed as the two sides were engaged in pragmatic cooperation in delivering values to their respective national aggregates.
Arriving in Dar Es Salaam, the Tanzania’s capital in his first ever foreign trip, straight from Moscow in March, 2013 soon after his assumption of office president Xi Jinping said emphatically that “unity and cooperation with Africa countries have always been, an important foundation of China’s foreign policy and this will never change, even should China grow stronger and enjoy higher international standing”.
In the past nearly three decades, each year, the Chinese minister of Foreign affairs begins the country’s diplomatic work with visits to Africa first. This is not arbitrary but a deliberate choice to emphasize the foundational and strategic centrality of Africa in China’s foreign policy. The practice has evolved into a tradition of China’s foreign policy and diplomacy.
As a strategic partner, Nigeria is obviously in the frontline of China’s diplomatic engagement in Africa and the practical outcomes are hugely game-changing for a country taking economic recovery and revitalization of its key infrastructures as its vital focus.
Crucially, Nigeria has been strategically engaged to the major international public goods that China has initiated, the Belt and Road framework of international cooperation, tapping from it, to promote the core agenda of the economic recovery and growth plan (EPGP).
Under a robust bilateral cooperation, the people to people cooperation has been greatly enhanced and in the context of the vigorous cooperation between the two sides, the Chinese ambassador to Nigeria has been arguably busier than his other peers. We have tracked his visits to almost all the states in Nigeria including in the North East that is considered the epicenter of Boko Haram terrorism.
He has robustly engaged in public clarifications of several issues and concerns to Nigeria public through incisive articles. He has published more than any other serving envoy in Nigeria in the local print media.
At the outbreak of Covid-19 in China and following the concerns of Nigerians with relatives in China, he hosted public meetings with concerned relatives to reassure them of the safety of their family members in China.
At the outbreak of this disease, China adopted exemplary responsible attitude, scrupulously ensuring that the disease was not exported to Africa from China. Despite vigorous exchanges between China and Africa, Nigeria’s Index case was Italian, Liberia’s was Swiss, Ethiopia had a Japanese Index case and South Africa’s Index case was a South African but he and his family contracted the virus in Italy.
Before Nigeria’s Index case, many Chinese workers who arrived here were taken in for mandatory testing and quarantine and it is instructive though, returning from China, none tested positive to covid19.
Nigeria-China bilateral relation is at its best despite the current covid19- related hiccups, with more room to improve and the strictures of rules in epidemic control and containment, despite the inconveniences, it may pose cannot and should not vitiate one of the world most successful bilateral engagements.
The Nigeria-China bilateral cooperation is too vital to be distracted by the exigencies and nuances of transitional rules in epidemic control, because after vile virus is gone as it it would certainly go, the China- Nigeria strategic partnership will continue to make robust contributions to Nigeria,s national aggregates especially in the strategic area of revitalizing key infrastructures for sustainable economic recovery and inclusive growth.
Onunaiju is Director Center for China Studies, Abuja