… officials Blamed for low quality imports to Nigeria
The Economic Confidential was recently granted an exclusive interview by the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, H.E. Deng Boqing, where he talks on the existing bilateral relationship between the countries as well as the aggressive investments of China in the African continent… Excerpts
EC: It has been two years you when you presented your credentials to President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja as Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria. How is your experience so far?
I have served as Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria for more than two years. During this wonderful period, I have visited several parts of Nigeria and been deeply impressed by this country’s beautiful landscape and her kind and friendly people. I can also feel that the traditional friendship roots deeply in the heart of our two peoples. It seems that the longer I stay in Nigeria, the more affection I feel for this great nation.
EC: What have been major bilateral relationship/agreement with Nigeria within this period?
During the past two years, I am privileged to see that China and Nigeria’s true brotherhood, with a solid base after41 years, has been promoted to a new level. High-level exchanges remained active and our political mutual trust enhanced. In 2011, Special Envoy of the Chinese President Hu Jintao attended the Inauguration Ceremony of President Goodluck Jonathan. This year alone, more than 30 ministers or governors visited China. Now our two sides are working closely to coordinate a time for President Goodluck Jonathan to visit China at his earliest convenience. The economic ties between our two countries have been strengthened. Nigeria has become the fourth largest trade partner and the second largest export market for China in Africa. Human resources, education and culture exchanges between our two countries were full of dynamic as well. In the past November, a 24-member cultural troupe attended Abuja Carnival. Their fascinating performance won wide acclaim.
EC: What have been the major investments of China in Nigeria?
The accumulated investment from China is expected to exceed US$ 10 billion by the end of 2012. China’s wide range investment covers sectors such as petroleum, free trade zone, iron and steel, agriculture, manufacturing, pharmacy and mining. The economic assistance to Nigeria provided by China played an important role in bilateral cooperation, and some projects in the areas of health, education, human resource training and infrastructural development worth to be mentioned. In the area of health care, China helped to build the Nigeria’s Malaria Prevention and Control Center in Abuja, as well as a 150--bed comprehensive hospital, which has been transferred to Nigerian side. In the area of education, China completed the construction of four rural primary schools in Abuja, Katsina, Kaduna and Ogun state. All of them have been handed over to the Nigeria side on February 23, 2012. Now, around 1500 pupils have entered into new classrooms to study. In order to improve the local social basic facilities, Chinese government sponsored the excavation of 598 boreholes in 180 local villages in Nigeria. This project has drastically improved those people’s drinking water conditions.
EC: What are the major Nigeria’s exportable goods and products to China?
Nigeria is one of the top crude oil producers and exporters in the world. This also shapes Nigeria’s export to China. However, compared with Nigeria’s other trading partners, the amount of crude exported to China is relatively lower, which only constitutes 1% to 2% percent of Nigeria’s total crude export. Our two countries managed to diversify the trade relations. Last August, Nigeria farmers exported 1.1million metric ton of Cassava chips to China. We Chinese side shall continue to encourage more import of non-oil items from Nigeria, especially agriculture products.
EC: Which area of trade exists between Nigeria and China? And what is the current trade volume between the two countries in dollar terms in 2012?
By September 2012, the trade volume between the two countries reached USD 8 billion, and is promising to exceed $ 10 billion again by the end of this year. In my view, our two economies are highly complementary, and the cooperative relations have huge potential and broad prospect.
EC: What in your view is Nigeria’s great potentials for greatness as most populace country in Africa?
Nigeria’s economy has been performing well in the past 11 months. The GDP grows at a rate of over 6%, the crude production stays at around 2.4million barrel per day and your foreign reserve increased to $45 billion. All of these achievements impress me a lot. There are more than figures. Nigeria is a leading nation in Africa and has been playing a significant role in resolving Mali and Guinea-Bissau crisis. Nigeria is a country with many natural endowments and abundant human resources, which give your economy the potential to thrive.
EC: China has shown a lot of example in managing natural disasters. How does it cope and what are the driving spirits in surmounting the problems like the Tsunamis, earthquake etc?
On behalf of the Chinese government, I wish to extend my sincere condolence to the families of the victims of recent floods in Nigeria. The Chinese side is willing to share experiences of tackling floods with our Nigeria brothers and provide assistance in our capacity. China is one of the countries suffering the most severe natural disasters, roughly 1/7 Chinese population, nearly 20million is impacted by the various disasters every year. Chinese government attaches great importance to disaster management, and approaches to deal with the disasters including enactment of a number of laws and regulations, gradually institutionalizing disaster reduction efforts; adopted a disaster reduction and relief system featuring central leadership and many other strategies.
EC: What are the other areas you think Nigeria should look into towards economic development, political stability and social cohesion using China as a model?
During the past 33 years, particularly in the past decade, China has enjoyed fast economic growth. China's GDP, which was 7.5 trillion US dollars at the end of 2011, grew at an average annual rate of 10.7%, and moved up to the second place in the world. The per capita GDP rose to 5,432 US dollars. China's foreign trade volume also became the second in the world. China’s rapid and steady development should attribute to the right development path which suites its national conditions. This path has at least three distinctive features. Firstly, China takes the Scientific Outlook on Development as an important guiding principle for economic and social development. It puts people first, promotes comprehensive, balanced, and sustainable development, and takes all factors into consideration when making overall plans. Secondly, we adopt a policy of opening up to the outside world. China has been an active player in economic globalization and integrated itself with the rest of the world with an open attitude, strengthened exchanges and cooperation.
Thirdly, we attach great importance to the social stability. In the past 30 years, maintaining stability is always on our top agenda, and reform was carried out gradually. From economic reform to political one, from the countryside to the city, and from the easy to the difficult ones, we are trying to keep the momentum while maintaining stability, although it is not an easy job.
EC: Recently a Chinese company in Abuja opened Railways Training Centre. How far has your government gone in improving the railway sector in the country, especially Abuja light rail service?
Rail transport is the most commonly used mode of long-distance transportation in China. By the end of 2012, the length of China’s railways in operation will reach 120,000 km, the second largest in the world. The high-speed rail network is 6,800 km long by October 2012. Abuja light rail, funded with the concession loan of USD 500 million from China Exim Bank, is a major project which will bring convenience to dwellers in Abuja once completed. I am confident that, with the joint efforts of both sides, the project will be completed within the stipulated time period. Besides infrastructure construction in Nigeria, the Chinese government emphasizes more on the training of locals. As the Chinese proverb goes “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. That was why I personally attended the opening ceremony when recently CCECC established the Training Centre at Idu.
EC: Why did it take your country many years to pursue aggressive investment abroad, especially in Africa? What are the reasons of this effort in the last decade?
There are several reasons which could explain China’s increasing investment to Africa. Firstly, during the last decade, China has become the second largest economy in the world, with the foreign exchange reserve reaching US$ 3 trillion. It now has the capacity to invest outside China. Secondly, African countries need foreign investment to fuel their development. In 2011, this continent attracted USD 42.7 billion. Thirdly, Africa’s traditional economic partners such as US, Europe has been struggling in debt crisis. Their reluctance to invest compels more African countries to “look east”.
EC: Can you give us the significant of China-Africa Cooperation Forum?
In October 2000, China-Africa Cooperation Forum (FOCAC) was set up in response to the call of the times. China and Africa have enhanced all-round friendly political relations featuring mutual respect and mutual trust. We have conducted more frequent high-level exchange of visits and more in-depth dialogue and exchanges, and provided stronger support to each other. China has supported African countries in independently resolving hotspot issues in the region and advancing the process of African integration. China and Africa have deepened practical economic cooperation featuring mutual benefit. China's trade with and investment in Africa have been expanding remarkably. In 2011, our two-way trade reached 166.3 billion U.S. dollars, three times the figure in 2006. Cumulative Chinese direct investment in Africa has exceeded 15 billion U.S. dollars, with investment projects covering 50 countries. China has built over 100 schools, 30 hospitals, 30 anti-malaria centers and 20 agricultural technology demonstration centers in Africa. It has met the pledge of providing 15 billion U.S. dollars of lending of a preferential nature to Africa. China and Africa have conducted increasing people-to-people and cultural exchanges featuring mutual learning. China has trained close to 40,000 African personnel in various sectors and provided over 20,000 government scholarships to African countries. China and Africa have set up 29 Confucius Institutes or Classrooms in 22 African countries. China and African have enjoyed closer ties of solidarity and coordination featuring mutual help and mutual support in international affairs. Our two sides have worked closely on UN reform, countering climate change, sustainable development, WTO Doha Round negotiations and other major issues. Last July, the Fifth Ministerial Conference of FOCAC was successfully held in Beijing.
EC: What are the other measures your government is taking to support Africa?
The Chinese government has announced its intention to take further measures in five priority areas to support the cause of peace and development in Africa and boost a new type of China-Africa strategic partnership. First, China will provide 20 billion dollars of credit line to African countries to assist them in developing infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing and small and medium-sized enterprises. Second, China will build more agricultural technology demonstration centers as necessary to help African countries increase production capacity. Third, we will support the African integration process and help Africa enhance capacity for overall development. Fourth, we will enhance people-to-people friendship to lay a solid foundation of public support for enhancing China-Africa common development. Fifth, we should promote peace and stability in Africa and create a secure environment for Africa's development.
EC: There are allegations that China export inferior products and goods to other countries. How is your country addressing those problems and allegations?
China has been hailed as the “World Factory” with its products reaching every corner of the earth. The world famous brands like IBM PC, VOLVO and so on, have become Chinese brands. Behind the success of Chinese manufacturing industry and the popularity of made-in-China products, lies the great importance that China has attached to the quality of the products. As a matter of fact, quality has always been regarded as the lifeblood of Made-in-China brand. The way that China became the “World Factory” has been a process to improve the quality of its products. Nevertheless, as a Chinese saying goes ‘In a big forest there is every kind of bird.’ Among the huge volume of Chinese products, and besides the ones manufactured for the high end market, there also exist fair quality products targeted for the medium and low end market as well as disqualified ones manufactured by a small number of lawless businessmen. The fair and low quality products sneak through different channels into the international market, where Africa has become the preferable destination.
EC: Why Africa, instead of Europe or the United States?
In my mind, there are the following reasons. Firstly, African people, due to limited consumption level and capability, prefer cheap products which propel some African businessmen to import low end and low price products from China. Secondly, many African importers, when making orders of products from Chinese manufacturers, always press for a lower price, which leaves little room of profit for the manufacturers and thus low guarantee of quality for the products. Thirdly, relevant authorities of African countries, where smuggling and gray customs clearance are quite common, have not conducted effective supervision against the low quality products. What is also worth mentioning here is that, some of the inferior products in Africa though labeled “made in China”, are actually not Chinese products, but have been mistakenly categorized into the low quality made-in-China products. Although inferior products only take a minimum proportion of the total volume of Chinese exports, they have a very adverse effect not only on the interests of the consumers, but also on the image of made-in-China products.
EC: Can you tell our readers in a nutshell how your government going to curtail the practice?
To curtail the spread of inferior products, the Chinese Government has set up various monitoring and complaint platforms, conducted special controlling programmes, urged enterprises to take responsibility for quality and safety of their products, enriched the quality and safety standard system, and worked to speed up the perfection of the quality inspection and supervision system. It has attached particular importance to the quality of products for export, and taken measures to do a comprehensive quality inspection of those goods to prevent outflow of substandard products. Besides that, the Chinese government is actively seeking the cooperation of African countries in strengthening the quality of Chinese products exported to Africa. Take Nigeria as an example. The governments of our two countries are currently working together and negotiating on the establishment of a mechanism for quality supervision. In March 2011, the Chinese embassy in Nigeria, together with the National Association of Nigerian Traders, co-hosted the seminar on China-Nigeria Trade Promotion to exchange ideas on how to raise the quality of Chinese products in Nigeria and push forward with the sustained development of bilateral trade relations. It is our strong belief that, with the joint efforts of relevant stakeholders, there will be a continuous reduction of inferior products from China and better protection of the rights and interests of African consumers.
EC: Do you have exchange schemes that encourage academics, students, entrepreneurs and other Nigerians to visit China?
Yes, we do. This year alone we have invited 260 personals went to China for various kinds of trainings, and 28 Nigerian students won Chinese government scholarship. The human resources training is a two-way communication. Chinese scholars, experts, think tank, students have visited Nigeria. Not long ago, over ten Chinese students have just finished their Hausa language learning at BUK in Kano. I recommend the Nigerian friends who want to apply for Chinese visas to visit our website http://ng.china-embassy.org to know specific requirement. The relationship between two countries is based on the affection between their civilians. The personnel exchange is the foundation of the bilateral relations. This is why the Embassy is taking a lot of measures to satisfy the increasing visa demand of the Nigerian people. During the rush seasons like Canton Trade Fair, the consular section occasionally opened at the weekend and holiday, and more visa officers will be on duty. There are also special application procedures for delegations. After all the efforts, I am glad to see that the waiting period is reduced drastically.
EC: With the new leadership in China, what do we expect in global scene and in Africa in particular between China and the rest of the world?
Not long ago, the Communist Party of China successfully held its 18th National Congress. On that occasion, a new generation of leaders were elected. It is expected that, in the coming ten years, China will continue to hold high the banner of peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit and strive to uphold world peace and promote common development. China will unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development and firmly pursue an independent foreign policy of peace. We are firm in our resolve to uphold China's sovereignty, security and development interests and will never yield to any outside pressure. We will decide our position and policy on an issue on its own merits and work to uphold fairness and justice. China is committed to peaceful settlement of international disputes and hotspot issues, opposes the wanton use of force or threat to use it, opposes any foreign attempt to subvert the legitimate government of any other countries, and opposes terrorism in all its manifestations. China opposes hegemonism and power politics in all their forms, does not interfere in other countries' internal affairs and will never seek hegemony or engage in expansion. China will continue to keep in mind both the interests of the Chinese people and the common interests of the people of all countries, get more actively involved in international affairs, play its due role of a major responsible country, and work jointly with other countries to meet global challenges.