Abuja — The new Chinese ambassador to Nigeria His Excellency, Mr. Deng Boqing in his first media engagement spoke exclusively to LEADERSHIP foreign Editor, Mr. Charles Onunaiju on a number of issues including economic and trade relations with Nigeria, the China-Africa cooperation forum etc. Excerpts
On arriving to Nigeria to take up the post, what is your impression and understanding of our job's challenge?
Nigeria is important and big developing country. The Nigerian people are wise and intelligent. Although I arrived in Nigeria not long ago, I have truly felt the friendship and sincerity of Nigeria people towards Chinese people, and enjoyed the support of the Nigerian government, the understanding and help from many Nigerian friends, all of which are so impressive.
With the largest population in Africa, Nigeria has a huge domestic market and is rich in natural resources, which Nigeria enormous potentials. It is good to see that Nigerian people have made great efforts to achieve social stability and economic development. I am fully confident of the future of Nigeria.
I feel honored to have the opportunity to walk in this beautiful country, at the same time I am aware of the great responsibility ahead of me for promoting the cordial bilateral relations between China and Nigeria.
Nigeria and China currently enjoy robust bilateral relations, courtesy of your predecessors. What areas of the relationship do you envisage the greatest challenge?
Well, I quite agree with your comments on Sino-Nigeria relations. Thanks to the great efforts made by both Chinese and Nigerian governments and the peoples as well as my hard-working predecessors, the cordial bilateral relations has been undergoing rapid, comprehensive and stable growth in recent years. The strategic partnership has been further strengthened, with mutual political trust particularly deepened, cooperation in international affairs continuously enhanced, and exchanges in culture, education and sports fields more and more frequent. Cooperation in the fields of in infrastructure, agriculture, communications and energy has been continuously pushed forward. The bilateral trade volume has increased from US $0.86 billion in to US $6.37 billion in 2009, up 744%, and will hopefully hit the record of US $7.5 billion at the end of year 2010. The accumulated Chinese actual investment in Nigeria reached US $4.14 billion in December 2006 and jumped to US $7.55 billion in June 2010, up 82%.
During my tenure, I would try all my efforts to maintain the sound momentum of such dynamic cooperative relations and eventually enhance the strategic partnership between China and Nigeria. I wish that with the support of Nigerian friends in all circles, the exchanges and mutual understanding would be broadened and the cooperation achivements would be ensured to benefit our two peoples.
China's intention and involvement in Africa is still a matter of curiosity because some section of the media, especially those influenced by the west still believe that china is in Africa to satisfy its natural resource appetite.
There has long been the argument that china is plundering Africa's resource. Obviously, it is a bias against the mutual beneficial cooperation between china and Africa. Anyone who is familiar with the history would know that the friendly relations and cooperation between china Africa did not start just yesterday, but as early as half a century ago. In those years, china firmly supported many African countries in archieving national independence, assisted the African people in building a large number of infrastructure projects including the TAZARA railway and sent over 10,000 doctors to Africa.
But China did not take away a single drop of oil or a single drop of oil or a single ton of mineral ores from Africa within the same period.
In recent years, China has increased its aids to African countries without any political strings. It is particularly noteworthy that in spite of the global financial crisis, which has led to a downturn in the world economy and reduction in development aid to Africa, the Chinese government has continued to honour its commitments to increasing aids and investment to Africa under the forum on China-Africa Cooperation.
On the other hand, China firmly, sticks to the principle of mutual benefit, win-win progress, equality and self-willingness in promoting the economic and trade cooperation with Africa. Essentially speaking, the economies of China and Africa are highly complementary to each other, as China enjoys sound processing capacity while Africa is rich in natural resources.
As to ithe exploitation of African resources, the Chinese enterprises'taking part on the activities on the African continent has been welcome by the ;African people, as it enabled them to have had more favorable capacity. In terms of energy cooperation, China is not the largest importer of energy from Africa but a smaller one, comparing with USA and Europe. Taking Nigeria's crude oil export as an example. In the year 2009, 40% of Nigeria's oil was exported to the US and 25% to Europe, however China's percentage is not more than 1% of the total.
At last, I would like to emphasize that the economic and trade which are essentially different from what it had with the western countries during the colonial period.
China's actual investment in Nigeria has reached 7 billion US dollars, What do you hope to add up during your tenure?
The economic interaction between China and Nigeria is rich in content and mutual investment is one of the key important cooperation. It is true that in recent years china's investment in Nigeria is increasing, and it covers a vast variety of fields, such as the exploitation of oil and gas resources, infrastructure construction, agriculture, trade, power and communications, etc.which has created many local job opportunities and improved the local productive capacity. The number of local employees of Chinese enterprises in Nigeria, such as CCECC, WEMPCO, the Lee Group etc., have all surpassed 10,000. It is particularly noteworthy that the Chinese enterprise have set up two Economic and Trade Cooperation Zones jointly with local governments. It is estimated that the Lekki Free Trade Zone, one of the two zones, is supposed to attract investment of 5 billion US dollars in the future.
The Chinese government will, as always, take more favourable measures to encourage the Chinese companies to invest in Nigeria. Meanwhile, I have two suggestions to attract more Chinese companies' investment in Nigeria. Firstly, both governments shall cooperate and set up platform for enterprises to meet regularly and seek cooperation opportunities. Secondly, both sides shall provide more incentives as well as preferential policies for enterprises. I am convinced that the Chinese investment volume will keep on rising in the coming years with the joint efforts by both sides.
Forum on China-Africa Cooperation has just clocked ten years, since it was inaugurated in Beijing in 2000. What in your view are challenges and prospects of FOCAC in the years ahead?
The founding of FOCAC was an important event in the history of Sino-African cordial relationship. As a creative move of developing countries to reinforce their solidarity and cooperation and join hands to cope with challenges under new circumstances, the establishment of FOCAC draws wide attention from the international community. Since the establishment of FOCAC, China-Africa relations have entered into a new phase of rapid, comprehensive and stable growth.
The world today is undergoing profound and complex changes. Imbalance in global development, widening gap between the North and the south, the combination of traditional non-traditional security threats as well as increasing factors of instability and uncertainty stand in the way of global peace and developmet . All these pose a daunting challenge to China and Africa nations in their pursuit of sustainable development. In order to deal with the challenges, both China and Africa have agreed to strengthen the cooperation under FOCAC to realize common developmet.
Reviewing the past, we are glad to see that FOCAC, with the high attention and joint effort of both sides, has become an important platform of collective dialogue and effective mechanism of pragmatic cooperation between China and Africa, and achieved major progress of lifting up China-Africa relations, increasing political mutual trust, boosting pragmatic cooperation and promoting the democratization of international relations. Taking the trade area as example, in the year of 2009, China-Africa trade volume exceeded US$91 billion compared with US$10.6 billion in 2000.
China results in economic reforms were quite different from the outcome of many African countries who introduced economic reforms at the hehest of the World Bank and the IMF and whose outcomes is not quite impressive. What are peculiar elements of China's reforms, she would share with Africa?
It was not until 1978 that China entered a new era of reform and opening-up to the outside world, a road charted by Mr. Deng Xiaoping . Since then China has come a long way. Over the past three decades, China has been transformed and tremendous changes have taken place.
Firstly, China's economy has changed from a highly centralized planned economy to a socialist market economy;
Secondly, China has changed from a relatively closed economy to a completely open economy;
Thirdly, China has changed from an economy of shortage to one in most area of which supply can meet or even surpass a little over the demand. Shortage of consumer goods is a thing of the past;
Fourthly, China's infrastructure has made tremendous progress;
Fifthly, the structure of the economy has also undergone dramatic changes;
Last but not the least, the well-being of the Chinese people has improved dramatically with over two hundred million people getting rid of poverty.
Maybe it is most noteworthy that China's economy has been enjoying fast growth with average growth rates of 10%. In the second quarter of 2010, China's GDP overtook Japan and became the world's second largest economy behind the United States.
As Mr. Deng Xiaoping said many years ago, China is both big and small, strong and weak. It's easy for people outside China to see the growth, it's big and strong side, while people inside China to see the difficulties, the small and weak side.
Although China's achievement in the past 30 years is amazing, China remains the largest developing country in the world, and the overall national strength of China should not be overestimated. Because of its huge population of 1.3 billion, its backward economic foundation to start with, despite the considerable size of its GDP, China's per capita GDP today still trail behind over one hundred countries in the world. China is still faced with many challenges, such as the remaining poverty, uneven development and the expanding gap between rural and urban areas, between the West and East, and the enormous resources and environmental costs of economic growth, etc.
For example, at present, there are still more that 130 million Chinese people living under poverty line, the number is almost equal to Nigeria's population.
Therefore, the development of China is a long and arduous process. If there are any experiences from China's reforms in the past 30 years, the greatest experience I can tell is that China has exploited its development road step by step with efforts of generations, which has eventually found a development mode suitable to its own situation.
There exist several similarities between China and Nigeria: a large population, intelligent and hard working people, a huge domestic market, strong entrepreneur spirit and a rapidly growing economy.
Besides this, Nigeria is rich in recourses and great prospect of oil, gas and solid minerals. As a true friend of Nigeria, China is ready to share experience and to learn from each other on addressing the social and economic challenges in the pursuit of sustainable development. I am glad to see that Nigeria has made great achievements in the process of seeking a suitable reform mode meeting its own needs.