Leading Lights: Sino-African ties based on mutual respect: expert

Charles Onujaiju, a Nigeria-based expert on Chinese affairs in Africa.
Charles Onujaiju, a Nigeria-based expert on Chinese affairs in Africa.

Sino-African relations are entrenched firmly in the precepts of mutual respect and the desire to move forward together, according to Charles Onujaiju, a Nigeria-based expert on Chinese affairs in Africa.

In an interview with CGTN, Onujaiju pointed out China’s policy of multilateralism builds a strong base for peaceful co-existence and cooperation between both sides.

“China from day one recognized that others might have different paths, others might have different systems but its very core principle of international relation is respect for the choice other people have made…this is the core of multilateralism,” he said.

“Multilateralism is recognition of different actors in the international system, engaging them on the basis of peaceful co-existence, engaging them on the basis of what they are not wanting them to become what you want, so this is the core principle so China from its very founding of modern China is anchored on that principle that promotes multilateralism, that promotes dialogue and consultation as the core principle of international relation and these principles are all encapsulated in the founding principles of United Nations.”

The expert’s remarks align with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s comments which he made in February 2021, as the West African country was celebrating 50 years since the establishment of Nigeria-China diplomatic relations.

“I am delighted that the bilateral ties have achieved far reaching and fruitful results, on the basis of close coordination and mutual trust, bringing great benefits to our countries and peoples,” Buhari said at the time.

“In the face of significant challenges faced by the international community, Nigeria and China are upholding a common position of preserving multilateralism, not interfering in other countries’ internal affairs and safeguarding the common interest of developing countries.”

In Onujaiju’s interview with CGTN, he also acknowledged China’s influence on other sectors in Africa, including trade, infrastructure development, skills transfer, employment and more.

China has maintained its position as the largest investor in Africa over the last 10 years.

According to data released by the General Administration of Customs of China, the total bilateral trade between China and Africa in 2021 reached an all-time high of 254.3 billion U.S. dollars, up 35.3 percent year on year, among which, Africa exported 105.9 billion dollars of goods to China, up 43.7 percent year on year.

A report by the Swiss-African Business Circle noted that China has over the last 10 years created 18,562 jobs a year on average in Africa, with yearly increases.

Onujaiju urged Africa to take full advantage of the opportunity presented by the China-Africa cooperation to scale up its development agenda.

“For Africa to reap the full benefit of the historic opportunity of China, we need to meet China halfway, we need to respond in policy positions not emotional, not just we watch and see. We move on our own and meet China half,” he said.

The expert also used the opportunity to highlight China’s influence at the United Nations, where it pushes for reforms towards more inclusivity, global peace and economic development.

“China has been a strong voice in advocacy for reforms, China has been a strong voice in advocacy for negotiated settlement of issues, for building more capacity for international support for Africa to build more capacity, to engage not only her problem but also become a much more active member in dousing international tensions and engaging security challenges so to that extent, China is a prime reformer, advocate of reform, a prime advocate of African increased capacity to engage not only its own problems but engage the problems of the rest of the world to build capacity for collective security and promote peace on a global scale,” said Onujaiju.