A former Nigeria’ s Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, has extolled the numerous achievements recorded between Nigeria and China as both countries celebrated 50 years of bilateral relations.
Gowon made this known in a goodwill message at a forum organised by the Centre for China Studies on Tuesday in Abuja themed: “Nigeria and China at 50: Reflections and Way Forward”.
Gowon, who transmitted his goodwill message virtually, said that he was honoured to be Nigeria’s Head of state as at when the diplomatic relations was initiated on Feb. 10, 1971.
“It was my honour and privilege to be the head of state of Nigeria at the time.
“I recall with pride and joy the productive preliminary contacts and engagements from 1966 that preceded the final outcome of the ceremony we are celebrating today — our bilateral relations in 1971.
“I am glad that I had something to do with China-Nigeria relations. I want to congratulate the Chinese leadership, past and present and the good peoples of China for the monumental progress they have made in these 50 years.
“Developing from an almost rural economy to the present advanced world technological economy and being of great help to all in Africa today,” Gowon said.
In his remarks, Mr Charles Onunaiju, Director of the Centre for China Studies, said that the bilateral relations and cooperation between Nigeria and China had grown phenomenally from its humble beginning 50 years ago.
Onunaiju in his paper titled “ Examining the New Drivers that would enable Nigeria-China Cooperation to Advance Further” highlighted key drivers that would boost the already robust relations between both countries in the next 50 years.
Onunaiju said that the successful partnership between Nigeria and China was hinged on three pillars; bilateral cooperation, the Belt and Road Initiative framework and the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).
He listed some key drivers Nigeria could leverage on to enhance successful relations in another 50 years to include; Industrial and production capacity cooperation, accessibility to China’s huge market, poverty eradication and strict party governance.
Onunaiju listed other key drivers to include reform of international and governance process, think-tank cooperation, military cooperation, deepening cultural cooperation and building on the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA).
“The Future of China African cooperation is bright and we have identified some key drivers that can drive it in the next 50 years and beyond.
“If we get our policies right, we can be the next industrial frontier because even Chinese medium scale and low earned industries are looking elsewhere because the level cost in China is rising.
“And they are looking elsewhere where the labor cost is relatively low and Africa presents the next opportunity for industry in the world.
“In the next 10 years, Chinese market will be worth about 22 trillion dollars and Nigeria can get access to this market if she addresses her infrastructure challenges especially power and network challenge.
”This can also be achieved through robust engagements with the BRI process. And if we get our industry right, we can be the next manufacturer of low earned products,” Onunaiju said.
Mr Zhao Yong, Charge’ d’ Affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria, said the relationship between China and Nigeria had enjoyed a strong development on the basis of mutual respect, trust and support.
“Both sides cherish their friendship, respect each other’s core interests, major concerns and uphold the principle of non-interference in internal affairs.
“China highly appreciates Nigeria’s commitment to the one-China principle and firmly supports Nigeria to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests.
“Over the past 50 years, the mutually beneficial China-Nigeria economic and trade relations have enjoyed a robust development, the scales and areas of cooperation continuously expand and the modes of cooperation have been diversified.
“In 2019, the trade volume between China and Nigeria reached 19.27 billion dollars, which was 1900 times that of 1971 when the diplomatic relationship was established.
“And the bilateral trade growth rate is ranking first among China’s top 40 trading partners in the world,” Zhao said.
Zhao said in the past 50 years, the exchanges between China and Nigeria in the areas of culture, health and security had been increasingly dynamic.
He said that China was ready to make joint efforts with Nigeria to further strengthen the anti-pandemic cooperation, deepen the Belt and Road cooperation; speed up the construction of key projects so as to help Nigeria accelerate.