Published On: Fri, May 19th, 2017

Belt and Road Initiative Open to Nigeria and All

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By Zhou Pingjian

Many Nigerian friends have been to or are familiar with the Canton fair. In 1957, the Chinese government determined to hold Chinese Export Commodities Fair twice a year in Guangzhou. Since its 101st session in 2007, the Canton Fair has changed its name to the Chinese Import and Export Commodities Fair partly in order to expand import.
From next year on, China is going to take another giant step to expand import thus bringing more opportunities to other countries. As President Xi Jinping announced in his speech at the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) on May 14, “China will host the China International Import Expo starting from 2018.”
The upcoming China International Import Expo is just one among over 270 outcomes yielded from the just-concluded BRF in Beijing. Heads of state and government from 29 foreign countries including President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia from Africa, together with around 1500 participants from over 130 countries and 70 international organizations gathered to exchange full views and share great minds to advance the Belt and Road Initiative. Some Nigerian scholars and journalists were also there to make their input.
Over 2,000 years ago, our ancestors, trekking across vast steppes and deserts, opened the transcontinental passage connecting Asia, Europe and Africa, known today as the Silk Road. Our ancestors, navigating rough seas, created sea routes linking the East with the West, namely, the maritime Silk Road. Through these trade routes, Chinese silk, porcelain and lacquerwork were shipped to the West, while pepper, flax and spices entered China. Through these trade routes, Buddhism, Islam and Arab astronomy, calendar and medicine found their way to China, while China’s four great inventions and silkworm breeding spread to other parts of the world. These routes over 2,000 years ago enabled people from various civilizations, religions and races to conduct trade and friendly exchanges, thus nurturing the spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit.
Facing complex and intertwined challenges, the current world may well draw wisdom and strength from the ancient Silk Road. In the autumn of 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed in Kazakhstan and Indonesia respectively the building of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which are called the Belt and Road Initiative. Four years on, more than 100 countries and international organizations have joined the initiative, among which more than 40 have signed cooperation agreements with China and more than 30 countries carried out framework agreements on production capacity with China. Important resolutions passed by the UN General Assembly and Security Council contain reference to it.
“The Belt and Road Initiative is rooted in the ancient Silk Road. It focuses on the Asian, European and African continents, but is also open to all other countries. All countries, from either Asia, Europe, Africa or the Americas, can be international cooperation partners of the Belt and Road Initiative.” as President Xi Jinping made it clear at the BRF, “Though originating from China, the Belt and Road Initiative belongs to the whole world.”
Owing to its openness and inclusiveness, the Belt and Road Initiative has spread beyond the countries and regions along the traditional trade routes to Africa, a continent with great potentials and opportunities. The continent’s development agendas are therefore in synergy with this initiative as it grasps the opportunity to advance modernization and industrialization. The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), an engine driving Sino-African cooperation since 2000, is increasingly and seamlessly integrating with the Belt and Road Initiative in terms of philosophy and mechanism, and is playing a leading role in China-Africa partnership as a cooperation mechanism.
As a pace-setter of China-Africa cooperation, what China-Nigeria bilateral cooperation can benefit from the Belt and Road Initiative?
Firstly, it will provide new opportunities to synergize our development strategies. The pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative is not meant to reinvent the wheel. Rather, it aims to complement the development strategies of countries involved by leveraging their comparative strengths. Nigeria is making every effort to advance its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (2017-2020), while China is also dedicatedly implementing the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) and supply-side structural reform. This is an unprecedented opportunity for China and Nigeria to synergize their development strategies and progress together.
Secondly, it will add new prospects for bilateral practical cooperation. By adhering to openness and inclusiveness, the Belt and Road Initiative is not China’s solo show, but a symphony performed by an orchestra composed of all participating countries and partners. China-Nigeria cooperation is the vivid reflection of the three shifts of China-Africa cooperation that is undergoing: from government-driven to market-driven, from trade in goods to cooperation on production capacity, and from engineering contracts to capital investment and operations. With the Belt and Road Initiative, we have more opportunities to keep the good momentum.
Thirdly, it will grant new perspectives for people-to-people and cultural exchanges. Amity between peoples holds key to sound state-to-state relations. The enormous potential in the area of people-to-people and cultural exchange has yet to be fully tapped in contrast to the huge population of our two countries. Chinese and Nigerian civilizations have a close affinity as both abound with distinctive cultural features, both cherish ancestral roots and both advocate sharing, patriotism and collaboration. We should further strengthen exchanges and cooperation in areas of science and technology, education, cultural, sports and health, so as to lay a solid popular and social foundation for China-Nigeria strategic partnership.
The glory of the ancient silk routes shows that geographical distance is not insurmountable. If we take the first courageous step towards each other, we can embark on a path leading to friendship, shared development, peace, harmony and a better future. Let’s take the opportunities brought by the Belt and Road Initiative to bring more benefits to our two peoples.
(Dr. Zhou Pingjian is Ambassador of China to Nigeria)

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