Racism against Nigerians-and other Africans– is not new in China. The history of Africa and China is marked by solidarity, but also chipped by old and new racism. Nothing at the moment suggests that the present situation will change drastically.
Some recent developments include weak moments in always oscillating relations between China and Nigeria.
Video Nigerian diplomat Razaq Lawal in China, publicly criticizing the ill-treatment of his compatriots in Guangzhou by Chinese officials on April 10, came out. Lawal protested that Nigerians were held in Covid-19 quarantine outside the normal 14 days for Chinese citizens. Chinese officials also seized their passports. He pointed out that the Nigerian government does not treat Chinese citizens living in Nigeria any differently from its own nationals.
The film sparked the anger of the Nigerians and the Nigerian government. The President of the House of Representatives of Nigeria, Femi Gbajabiamila, He demanded replies of China’s ambassador to Nigeria, Zhou Pingjiana. Around the same time, the Nigerian Medical Association was protest government decision to invite a Chinese medical team to help fight Covid-19.
Based on mine tests As for relations between the two countries (especially in the field of industrial relations) over the past decade, I believe that such incidents may repeat themselves. This is despite the assurances of Nigeria’s Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama that Nigeria will be “take final steps against China “.
I identify three main reasons.
Why don’t things change
Official relations date back to February 1971, when Nigeria established diplomatic relations with China. But contact between ordinary Nigerians and Chinese precedes the civil war in Biafran in 1967-70. Although some argue that China maintained Bihran forces against the Nigerian government, no post-war government in Nigeria has confirmed Beijing’s commitment.
Along with other African countries, Nigeria endorsed China as the true representative of the Chinese people in 1975. This led to the replacement of Taiwan with the United Nations. This was followed by high-level bilateral visits that prepared the ground for increased trade. While exact figures are hard to find, trade between Nigeria and China galloped at around $ 1.8 billion a year 2003 up to $ 13.5 billion in 2018.
As relationships developed, more and more Nigerians started businesses and others relations in China.
However, the mistreatment of Nigerians should be understood in the broader context of the mistreatment of Africans in China. This can be traced back to the 1960swhen African students started coming to China. It intensified in the 1970s and 1980s when there were protests in China against Africans and by Africans themselves.
Coincidentally, a landmark incident the death of the Nigerian occurred in 2009 in Canton, where Nigerians were recently abused. This led to protests by Nigerians and other Africans, “demanding justice from Chinese police after officials chased a man out of a skyscraper this year as part of this year’s escalating fight against illegal residents in the city.”
In 2012 it was another protest by Africans in Guangzhou after the death of a Nigerian detained by the police.
In my opinion, Nigeria’s reluctance to call for Chinese action over the years is the main reason why the status quo remains.
While painting the picture of equality publicly, China continues to dominate relations with Nigeria, as noted in 2015 paper co-author from Bukola Ajayi. We see this in the imbalance in trade, Nigeria’s growing dependence on China, and China’s growing importance in Africa. We also highlighted the issue of counterfeit, adulterated and substandard drugs and other products imported from China into Nigeria.
At that time, I commented on Chinese labor relations in Nigeria and the challenges of supporting the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda. My paper He pointed out the weakness of the Nigerian government in response to the mistreatment of citizens by Chinese companies. I argued that this created space for both civilian and non-civic responses from non-state actors.
In April 2020, five years later, we witnessed another report of maltreatment.
The second reason is Chinese investments in Nigeria.
A good number Chinese multinationals and small businesses operate in Nigeria. Chinese companies in Nigeria are building much needed roads and railways, airports and telecommunications infrastructure. Currently around 218 are registered Chinese companies in Nigeria. They deal with, among others construction, furniture, food and drinks, beauty, product assembly.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s trade deficit vis-à-vis China remains enormous. For example, in 2015-2018 trade deficit amounted to N 6.83 trillion (which today is exchanged at about $ 17.5 billion) in favor of China. This confirms that China is enjoying greater benefits at the moment. While accurate data is difficult to obtain, total trade between the two countries is estimated to be around $ 49 billion. This means that goods imported from China to Nigeria during this period were approximately $ 17.5 billion higher than those exported from Nigeria to China. In any case, a significant part of Nigeria’s exports to China is a staple product: crude oil.
The third reason concerns China’s financing of development projects.
China is chief financier major projects in Nigeria. These is a $ 874 million 187-kilometer Abuja-Kaduna railway line $ 1.2 billion, 312 km Lagos-Ibadan expressway; $ 1.1 billion Kano-Kaduna railroads and $ 600 airport terminals in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano.
The current cost of Chinese projects is estimated to be $ 47 billion. Many of them are financed by Chinese loans. A country that relies so much on China will find it difficult to take action against Beijing.
WITH bad work standards in China itself and the weaknesses of institutions in Nigeria when it comes to checking periodic abuses by Nigerians by Chinese companies, the chances that Nigerian politicians and the government will react – or may – seriously react to the abuse of Nigerians in China are slim.
What to do?
The recent treatment of Nigerians in China is detrimental to Nigeria’s relationship with China. However, if relations are to develop, there are at least two important issues to be addressed. First, the Chinese government needs to do more to educate its people by sensitizing ordinary Chinese people to racism.
Second, Chinese citizens in China need to understand that their actions could have repercussions for their fellow Americans in Africa. This could affect China’s long-term importance as a partner in Africa.
But these issues do not only concern ordinary Chinese citizens. Racism can be a symptom of much greater problems for the Chinese government. This could be an opportunity for Xi Jinping’s government to learn and, more importantly, to act.
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