On 25 October 2021, the world listened as His Excellency Xi Jinping, the President of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and undoubtedly the world most influential politician, read an anniversary speech at a virtual conference attended by United Nations (UN) Secretary General, to commemorate 50 years of the restoration and recognition of the PRC as the only legitimate representative of the Chinese people in the UN. In October 1971, the UN passed Resolution 2758 which removed Taiwan as the member of the UN and accepted the PRC as the sole representation of the Chinese nation in the UN. The speech was an opportunity for the government and people of China to thank the world and all countries that stood on the side justice, fairness and peace to overwhelmingly vote the PRC back into the world stage. It was also an opportunity taken by the Chinese leader to reassure the world that China is a responsible player in the international system and does not seek to disrupt the international order of multilateralism.
The speech was HE Xi Jinping was monitored by observers and scholars of international politics, as well as friendly countries like Nigeria who have collaborated with China on various levels to raise the living standard of the people of both countries, and uphold the sanctity of the UN as the global body responsible for maintaining international peace, stability and order. As the most populated countries in Asia and Africa, China and Nigeria have so much in common in terms of development and other challenges. Nigeria have found China’s impressive economic development and growing influence in national and international politics, economy, social and environmental sphere of great interest. That is why many in Nigeria paid rapt attention on the speech to commemorate the 50 years anniversary of the PRC in the UN with undivided thoughtfulness. Based on previous interactions with China, Nigeria have strong reasons to believe that contrary to suspicion and misunderstanding of China’s development and realpolitik, the Chinese government and people have continuously reiterated that China has no intention of domination or building a hegemony, but interested in peaceful development and shared prosperity for all humanity.
The Chinese government and its people have demonstrated a steadfast development appetite that is focused, deliberate, unfettered and untiring in rising the living standard of its people and others across the world. It was therefore in the best interest of China, which constitute one-fourth of the world population to promote common development, maintain harmony and enhance understanding of humanity’s unique but interdependent role in a shared future. The desire of China to remain an unflinching member of the UN, end poverty and promote the welfare of the people in the last 50 years provided one of the most fascinating breakthrough in the discourse of contemporary development of the 21th century. It is on this premise that the speech by HE Xi Jinping could be understood as a solemn declaration of service to the Chinese nation and to humanity as a whole.
CHINA’S GIFT TO THE WORLD:
As a mark of respect for the support that China got from countries like Nigeria and others who stood on the side of historical justice and fairness to vote the PRC back into the UN, China has continued to stand in solidarity with them and all people of the world, to promote collaboration and constantly advocate for multilateralism as the yardstick for measuring international cooperation and development. The Chinese people and government have identified with the challenges of other developing countries, and have offered assistance where necessary or when it is requested. Due to its own history with poverty and the new found fortune derived from its development, China have consistently increase the opportunity levels available to developing countries through trade, infrastructure and financing.
All the more interesting was the adoption of socialism by China as the ideological compass to direct its development path. The success that China recorded in using socialism with Chinese characteristics to build the second largest economy in the world has challenged existing structure of the international system that favours capitalism as the only silver bullet for national, regional and global development. The Chinese brought in a unique development template based on shared experience and its distinctive civilization to surmount the challenges of changing circumstances in its development voyage. The success of such clever development template gave other countries the courage to emulate China by pushing for what Xi Jinping describe as putting the people in front and center of development. Xi Jinping says that development is meaningful only when it is for the people’s interest, and can sustain only when it is motivated by the people. That is a clear definition of inclusive development by every standard.
Is there any wonder that China was the first developing country to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and is set to achieve the aspirations of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development? People centred development gives us an insight into the mind of successive Chinese leaders of overcoming poverty and building a prosperous future for its people. The last 50 years have seen how China have used the platform of the UN to advance humanity through adhering to rules of the global body to foster international values of peace, freedom, security, stability, justice and development. With several examples of pursuing global good by China along-side other peace loving countries of the world, China has demonstrated a lot of faith in the values of the UN and have proven that it can be trusted to uphold order, human rights, good governance and the pursuit of happiness for the citizens of the earth. Perhaps in another 50 years from today, it will be of great service if the world listens closely to China’s principles of peaceful development and understand its concept of shared humanity embedded in her oriental civilization and how it can impact positively on the future of international security and development.
WIN-WIN COOPERATION AND GLOBAL GOVERNANCE
The position of China have always consider interactions among sovereign states based on mutual benefits and cooperation has re-echoed the interdependent nature of human existence. The Covid19 pandemic proved that no individual country can develop in isolation as humanity is confronted by certain threats that only a multilateral arrangement could overcome. China has been active in sharing Covid19 response experience with the world, and have played exemplary role in providing vaccines, medical personnel and personal protective equipment (PPE) with other developing countries, including Nigeria. It has insisted that global cooperation against the virus can give the world victory over the pandemic. China’s voice was loud against Covid19 vaccine nationalism, where it collaborated with the UN and other international organizations to make sure that vaccines got to all who needed it, in order to arrest the spread and threat of the virus across the world.
Even when other powerful countries abandon multilateralism for unilateralism and populism, China faithfully stood by the sanctity, authority, ideals and tenets of the UN Charter in international relations. Over the past 50 years, China has contributed immensely to international stability through the activities of the UN by being the second largest financial contributor to the UN Peacekeeping Operations. It has sent over 50,000 peacekeepers to different UN peacekeeping missions across the globe. It initiated and collaborated to enhance various programs for common development and building an international community for a shared future of mankind which have contributed and still contributing to advance human progress. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB) among other laudable strategies, have raised global opportunity levels for developing countries to access financing, adopt alternative development template that could suit specific development needs, and blaze a new trail in development theories and practice. Recently, Nigeria became a member of the AIIB with tremendous anticipation to strengthen people to people exchanges, increase commerce and connectivity, poverty eradication and improve on good governance.
FUTURE COOPERATION BETWEEN CHINA AND NIGERIA
As noted earlier, China and Nigeria share peculiar position in history. Apart from being the most populated countries in their regions, China and Nigeria are also the biggest economies in these regions, who influence a great deal of trade and economic activities around its immediate neighbours. There is hardly any country you visit in West Africa that one will not observe a large community of Nigerians living in those countries. Same is the case with China in Asia. The people of China and Nigeria are contributing to the development of other countries and it is logical for the government of both countries to promote the ideals of multilateralism as bases for enhancing our shared future with all mankind by cultivating friendly relations and mutually beneficial cooperation.
China and Nigeria also hold important regional responsibilities in ECOWAS and ASEAN. As responsible stakeholders in global governance, China and Nigeria need to collaborate more in assuring its immediate neighbours of inclusion against exclusion, cooperation against adversity, common development against populism. This will certainly allay the fears of neighbouring countries who may feel threatened by the position China and Nigeria occupy in their regions.
The BRI should factor the unique development challenges and peculiarities of Nigeria and other developing countries who are relying on China to restore them back into a sound development path towards prosperity. China’s economic development and its position as the second largest economy built over the last 50 years, have given it credibility to be the current leader of global governance. There is so much responsibility that comes with such enormous status in the international system. Hence, Nigeria is prepared to learn from China to enable her own development, and is also willing to support China and the UN to foster the growth of an international community with shared values and prospect for development.
There is no need for some countries of the world to fear China’s peaceful rise. The world does not have to only like what it knows or understand, but can also appreciate the differences that makes us human and the diversity that add colour to human existence. The Chinese have developed a different model of development based on its civilization and peculiarities in the world. It has also argued that the civilization and continued existence of a developed China rest on its principles of peaceful development and that it does not pose any threat to the international order, that is why China has always favored multilateral consensus in international affairs. I think successive Chinese leadership have reiterated this position for so long that the world should give China the benefit of the doubt. This is because China’s sustainable development is dependent on a stable and peaceful world. China is a responsible global player and its role in the UN have proved this beyond doubt.
The speech of HE Xi Jinping to celebrate the 50th anniversary of China’s return into the UN has once again provided hope that the world and its leaders still acknowledge the prime position of the UN in solving contemporary issues of international concern. The Chinese leader have promised to help provide the world with a safe, stable and peaceful environment on which humanity can live and pursue happiness, build livelihoods and share in the commonwealth of the earth.
Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Abuja, Nigeria.