Chinese-Nigerian Relations: Beyond Rhetoric Featured

Saturday, 11 July 2015 00:00 Written by  Published in The Nation Read 473 times
Abubakar Babangida, a Nigerian in Wang  Fu Jin,  Beijing Abubakar Babangida, a Nigerian in Wang Fu Jin, Beijing nationalreview.ng

Nigeria and China have a lot in common, except that one has woken up to the realities of its peculiarities while the other is still in slumber, writes Orji Iheanyi

 

Nigeria and China have so many things in common. They both have diverse ethnicities and are richly endowed with mineral and human resources. China is the largest single market in the world with a population of 1.3 billion persons, while Nigeria is the largest single market in Africa with a population of over 180 million human beings; which means that of every three Asian, one is a Chinese, and of every four African, one is a Nigerian.

Beyond rhetoric therefore, Nigeria and China are birds of a feather; only that Nigeria has not braced up enough to flock together with China in the same proximity within the hierarchy of world super powers. Unlike Nigeria, China has been able to harness its vast demographic, human and material resources to build a strong and virile domestic economy, which has impacted positively on its citizenry. Around the oil boom era (1971-1977) when Nigeria had so much money that it was confused on what to do with these monies, China was still one of the poorest countries in the world and was yet to map out its developmental trajectory in 1979. That paved a way for it to become presently, the second in the world on Gross Domestic Product behind the United States, with the potentials of becoming the first in no distant time.

Its strategies are not far-fetched. It invested in overall capacity building by increasing inputs of human and physical capital, which also involves investment on education. The Chinese government over a long period of time has been investing massively in education and scientific development. The same goes for Malaysia, India, Norway, Singapore, U.S, Switzerland and the like. Little wonder however, that Switzerland is the leading nation with the highest Noble Prize winners per capita, even though the U.S leads in quantity.

Not to miss the forest for the trees, the analysis of Vision2020 statements of Nigeria and China captures effectively the reasons why the Chinese are eons away from Nigerians in just a short time. China's Vision2020 states as follows: “We will make ours basically a society in which every citizen is committed to learning and pursues lifelong learning.” Nigeria's Vision2020, on the other hand, aims at making the country amongst the 20 most developed countries in the world in the year 2020.

The difference is clear! The former is more people-centred, appreciates the inter-relationship between the citizens and the government, and magnifies the virtues and the dignity in hard work. The Chinese government really believes that the citizens are the real wealth of a nation and is really determined to invest on the lifelong education of this facet of the economy that powers other sectors.

In essence, education seems to be the only panacea to new and improved circumstances, and to development. Without it, life will inexplicably continue to be full of mysteries. Quantum Physicist David Deutsch wrote that “everyday events are stupendously complex when expressed in terms of fundamental physics. If you fill a kettle with water and switch it on, all the super computers on earth working for the age of the universe could not solve the equations that predict what all these water molecules will do – even if we could somehow determine their initial state and that of all the outside influences on them, which is itself an intractable task”. The importance of education hereby lies on the ease with which it develops skills, moulds minds, defines character, simplifies mysteries, and explains events which on their own, no matter how infinitesimal, are stupendously complex.

The fact speaks for itself! Evidence abound that in China everyone is directly committed to the education of the child. The government first, then the parents, relatives and others are all complimentarily concerned about the child's educational journey. In 2003, a document on 'Report of Problems of Education and Human Resources in China', states that “family expenditures on education amounted to 12.6% of the family budget and surpassed both housing and clothing to become after food, the second highest expenditure”. To ensure that children from low income families have their own share of education, the government initiated effective ways of assistance, with policies and measures such as scholarships, subsidies for those with special economic difficulties, tuition reduction, state stipends and work-study programmes for students in higher education.

The Chinese student lives in an educational system that tirelessly works and is absolutely committed to the education of the student. He is cognizant of the fortunes and respect commanded by their numerous Nobel Laureates and other ubiquitous professionals such as scientists, programmers, teachers etc and so desires to be like them. He sees graduates being hunted for by notable organizations sometimes even before their graduation. He has the opportunity of studying specialized courses such as automation, software engineering, nuclear power, energy resources, oceanography, nuclear physics, polymer chemistry, polymer physics, radiochemistry, physical chemistry, biophysics, soil microbiology, aeronautics, astronautics, robotics, atomic physics and the like in any of the over 3,000 local universities in his country, which were well equipped and of world class; he uses latest books and software related to his field of study; and relatively has a conducive atmosphere that will enable him build a career immediately after graduation.

The Chinese government, as a friend, has done its best in helping increase the premium of education within the confines of the Nigerian society. Economic relations between China and Nigeria dated back to 10 February 1971, when the two countries signed the Joint Communiqué on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations. For a better part of these years, apart from the increase in the volume of trade between the two countries which form major bedrock in the bilateral ties, new areas of strategic partnership have included scholarships to Nigerian students and a new dimension characterized by rapid and aggressive economic, cultural, scientific and educational co-operation, technical assistance as well as several China sponsored training programmes for Nigerian experts and professionals. Currently, Nigeria is the African country which has got the greatest number of students studying in China.
On the other benefits Nigeria has gained in her bilateral relationship with China from 2001 to 2012 among others, Hilton Etakoh, a consultant on diplomatic relations, in his piece titled “What does China really want in Nigeria?” summarized it as thus: “Several bi-lateral agreements and treaties have been signed between Nigeria and China. In 2001, the two countries signed an agreement for the establishment of a Nigerian Trade office in China and a China Investment Development and Trade Promotion Centre in Nigeria. In 2002, Nigeria and China signed an agreement for the avoidance of double taxation and prevention of Fiscal evasion with respect to tax and income. In the same year, the two countries signed another agreement on Consular Affairs. Still in 2002, the two countries signed yet another agreement on cooperation and strengthening management of Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Diversion of Precursor Chemicals.

Nigeria and China went on to sign the Tourist Cooperation Agreement also in 2002. In 2005, a Strategic Partnership Agreement was signed by both countries, and in 2006, Nigeria signed an Economic Cooperation Agreement with Xinguang International Group of China. Beside these, several other agreements and memoranda of understanding have also been signed. Nigeria has no doubt received various technical assistance in the areas of science and technology, military, health, education, etc. For example in 2006, China gave Nigeria a grant of 46 million Yuan to combat malaria and also train its health personnel on malaria prevention and control. In another development, Nigeria and China signed scientific cooperation agreement that resulted in the launching of Nigeria's first communication satellite (NIGCOMSAT) to the orbit in 2007. Similarly, the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology and Huawei Technologies of China were reported to have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the provision of National Information Communication Technology Infrastructure Backbone.

In terms of Foreign Direct Investment, total Chinese interests in Nigeria is said to have reached about $8.4 billion as at July 2012. In terms of aids, grants and other relations, available information shows that Nigeria has received various technical and financial assistance from China especially in the areas of health, education, military, infrastructural development, etc. For example, in the health sector, China has been supportive of Nigeria's Rollback Malaria Program through the provision of anti-malaria drugs and insecticide treated mosquito nets worth about N400 million. In another development China and Nigeria signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the supply of another round of anti-malaria drugs worth N83.6 million. In the area of defence, the Nigerian Military are also said to have benefited from China's technical assistance in the form of military training and supply of military hardware. In the area of education, Nigeria and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2006 for the provision of about N670 million for the training of 50 Nigerian officials and medical personnel on malaria prevention and control. Still in education, some Nigerian educational institutions are said to have established partnership with Chinese authorities and educational institutions with a view to promoting Chinese culture, language and innovations. For example, Chinese experts are believed to be working with the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka and a host of others to provide Chinese language teaching to Nigerian students. Under the scheme, China is responsible for sponsoring the training of the university's staff to study mandarin in China. In terms of financial assistance, China Export Import Bank (EXIM) and Nigeria signed a financing agreement of (N 8.36 billion concessionary export grant) to support Nigeria's infrastructural development”.

To sum it all up, China has done well in terms of building human capital through investment on education. The country appears to agree with the position of Her Majesty, Queen Al Abdullah of Jordan that, “From the government to education providers, to employers, to civil society and to the youth themselves, shaping our future is everyone's responsibility”.

Last modified on Friday, 24 July 2015 12:56
Orji Iheanyi

Orji Iheanyi is a journalist and novelist. He is also an academician and seasoned agronomist. He can be reached at orjilla@gmail.com