The world second largest economy, China, has reiterated its commitment to ensure Nigeria meets its economic growth ambitions.
Addressing a group of young diplomats from the Benson Idahosa University (BIU) at the Chinese Embassy in Abuja on Nonday, the Ambassador of China to Nigeria, Dr. Zhou Pingjian, said China thinks of its relationship with Nigeria "in a very strategic way."
According to him, "If we want to grow with Africa, how can we not involve Nigeria? In your economic journey, you will need international partners and we can assure you that China is one of your most reliable partners in achieving your dreams."
In 2017, trade volume between the two countries reached $8.94billion, but Pingjian said China is also very much interested in tangible investments.
"Trade is important, but investing in industrialisation is more important - that's how you create jobs," he stated.
Estimating how much China has invested in Nigeria, in terms of infrastructure, is subjective, but has been significant enough to spark some positive ripples in Abuja.
President Muhammadu Buhari said in January: "Since independence, no country has helped our country in infrastructure development like the Chinese.
"In some projects, the Chinese has committed to funding the projects by as much as with 85 per cent through soft loans that span 20 years. No country has done that for us."
On why China appears to be interested in Nigeria, Pingjian noted that both countries share a lot of similarities.
"China is the most populous country in the world and the second biggest economy, while Nigeria is the most populous in Africa and has the largest economy on the continent. So when we work more closely that will benefit not only our two countries," he said.
Speaking on behalf of the young diplomats from BIU, who made a courtesy visit to the Chinese embassy, a BIU lecturer, Mr. Idahosa Ojo, expressed excitement at the opportunity.
The students wanted to understand how diplomacy worked in the real world, Mr. Ojo said, and that was why they had made the trip from Benin-city to Abuja.
In response to that question, Pingjian noted that diplomacy is about bridging the gap between two contrasting social and political cultures.
"I have two books on my desk and they will be there till I depart this country. "One is the report from the Communist Party of China's National Congress and the second one is Nigeria's Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
"All the basic policies and philosophies of China's domestic and foreign policies are included in the former. So every day, I read through the book to remind me of China's policy and think about how to communicate its message. If you get the main idea of that report, you will be hundred per cent a China expert.
"The key to understanding China is to understand the ruling party. But as a diplomat, the shortcut is to read the party's political report, because without the leadership of the political party, we cannot achieve what we have achieved. The strength of China is as a result of this leadership. It is the leading force in every field.
"And the reason I am interested in the ERGP is because, as a diplomat, you are a bridge. So I must know what Nigeria is striving for. And, as I see it, the ERGP encapsulates what the country wants to build.
"From ERGP, one can deduce that what Nigeria wants is revenue diversity, industrialization, you want to produce what Nigeria uses and produce for Africa and the world, you want to grow what you eat, and start exporting. That's very reasonable," he stated.
The ambassador then went down memory lane, discussing how China rose from one of the world's poorest country, to becoming the world's second largest economy, pointing out the merits of opening China's market and moving away from textbook socialism.
"Our experiences in Nigeria show that it is better naturally endowed than China. So if we can make progress in China, for Nigeria it should be much more easier," he said.
About 95 per cent of the BIU students who met with the Chinese Ambassador are from the Department of International Studies and Diplomacy while the rest are in Law, Political Science and Sociology.