1st of October is China’s Independence Day, just like Nigeria. This seems to have prompted a closeness because even their years of independence are not too far apart. It is easy to think that because of the current level of development in China, she must be much older than Nigeria but China was founded as a country in 1949, just 11 years before Nigeria.

I made my first and only visit to China in 1982.

In 1982, the issue of who, where or what was China was raging, much more than it is now, although it is still there. The confusion is because there are ‘two Chinas’.


The Peoples Republic of China and the Republic of China are two countries, although each says they ‘own’ the other so they should be recognized as one country. The governments of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) form the basis of the so-called “Two Chinas” issue. PRC is a communist country while the ROC, often just called “Taiwan,” is a democratic state with a capitalist economy.

However, neither side agrees on what the “China” in question is: the People’s Republic of China, ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, or the Republic of China, ruled by the Chinese Nationalist Party (commonly known as the Kuomintang, or KMT). The PRC considers Taiwanese  territory to be part of its territory. The ROC also considers PRC part of its territory. Both claim to be the legitimate government of the entire China.

People’s Republic of China – our China of today – came into being as mainland China on October 1, 1949, when, after a near complete victory by the Communist Party of China (CPC) in the Chinese Civil War, Chairman Mao proclaimed the People’s Republic of China (PRC). During the civil war which ended in 1949, the then government (ROC) lost control of mainland China to the Communist Party, which established the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and took control of all of mainland China. Only the island of Taiwan remained under the control of the ROC. The Nationalists (led by Chiang Kai-shek) fled to the island of Taiwan and set up their new capital city, Taipei.

My 1982 China visit was for only about a week but it afforded me the opportunity to travel by air and road round some landmark areas in this fourth largest country in the world by land mass, after Russia, Canada and the United States of America.

In 1982, China was mostly a country of bicycles! Bicycles were everywhere, just like motorbikes, machines or Okadas are all over the place in Nigeria of today. Beijing roads were clogged with them and it was always a sight, to behold parking places for bicycles. Cars, we were told, were mainly for government functionaries. Most people could not afford to buy cars anyway. The economy then was quite small. Having been founded as a country in 1949, it was relatively a new nation then – a developing country and member of the Non-Aligned movement.

But even at that time, the leaders were already positioning their country for the future. Our visits to the countryside, markets and factories showed people working very hard in their various endeavours and trying to earn a living. The homes of farmers and workers we visited were quite basic, even poor in some sense. No fancy stuff, no glitter except at concerts which were organised more or less for us foreigners or the ‘big people’. Everyone dressed the same way to work in the usual blue khaki Chinese collared top and trousers. Fancy shops were meant only for foreigners who had to spend dollars for their purchases. The film studios which were churning out those Chinese Jujitsu and Karate movies were not like the fantastic monuments you see in Hollywood but those movies still made their marks all over the world those days with famous and popular actors like Bruce Lee. Jet Li and Jackie Chan came much later.

Even though China wasn’t an open country then, they were already planning big for tourism and had set out attractions with the Great Wall, along with the Forbidden City and even Tiananmen Square in Beijing, the capital city which was a popular protest venue and where you could also be picked up if your moves were considered  out of sync with the expected. This was especially after the square became notorious when thousands of protesting students were shot dead by security forces on June 4th 1989 during the reign of Premier Li Peng who had declared martial law.

In the 80s, the country was still struggling to establish the name of its capital city as Beijing from the Anglicized Peking and it would take some time before people got used to Beijing as the new name.

A major source of interest to us were the armament factories where tanks, arms and ammunition, including rockets and launchers were being manufactured and they didn’t mind showing them off to us.

China has however come a long way since then to become now a super power, both militarily and economically, to the extent that leaders of western countries are falling over themselves to ensure China does not takeover European and American business interests in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. Even the US President started by imposing tariffs on Chinese products because of his perceived unfair trade practices by China but China has also responded in kind and does not seem deterred by the antics of POTUS Trump.


As stated earlier, like Nigeria, China’s Independence Day is 1st October. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with about 180 million people officially, while China maintains the same position in Asia and indeed the whole world with about 1.3 billion people. They have both been members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a group of countries that are not technically formally aligned with or against any major power bloc. As of 2012, the movement had 120 members. It was established in 1961 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

Like his Nigerian counterpart Muhammadu Buhari, Chinese President Xi Jinping has made fighting official corruption a cornerstone of his reign. Xi’s anti-corruption campaign has resulted in many top government officials losing their positions and facing trials. This has made Xi very popular among the Chinese people, with those convicted of very serious corruption charges facing death by firing squad. Similarities of both countries have not extended to this level though.

Economically, while they were both developing countries in the 80s, China has, with lots of hard work, proper planning and direction, become the country to beat while Nigeria seems to have slid down the ladder. China is Nigeria’s second-biggest trading partner after the U.S., with volumes between the two totaling $9.2 billion in 2017.

Nigeria and China recently signed a currency-swap agreement worth $2.4 billion to boost commercial ties and reduce the need to use dollar in their bilateral trade. The swap would provide local currency liquidity for both Nigerian and Chinese businessmen and the transaction is aimed at providing adequate local currency liquidity to Nigerian and Chinese industrialists and other businesses, thereby reducing the difficulties encountered in the search for third currencies.

The deal will assist both countries in their foreign exchange reserve management, enhance financial stability and promote broader economic cooperation between the two countries. It is purely an exchange of currencies and will also make it easier for Chinese manufacturers seeking to buy raw materials from Nigeria to obtain enough Naira from banks in China to pay for their imports from Nigeria.

The hope is that business and investment bottlenecks will be a thing of the past.

While the number of Nigerians travelling to China has increased dramatically in the last few years as a result of Chinese openness and prospects for investment opportunities for its citizens, it is hoped that the relationship will benefit both sides and help provide the needed jobs for Nigerians who have been adversely affected by the economic recession.

The penchant of the Chinese government to tie their foreign investment to jobs for their own people is well known and this should not be allowed to affect creation of good employment for Nigerians. Chinese should not take over jobs where there are qualified Nigerians ready to fill the positions.


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