SOURCE TEXT 1 - English-Chinese
On July 1, 2016, Nigeria commemorated the 95th anniversary of the founding of China’s ruling Communist Party (CPC) by holding a major conference in Abuja. During that conference, Nigeria’s vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Shehu Sani, extolled the CPC as a role model for African political parties to follow.
Sani’s praise for the Chinese political system was rooted in his admiration of the CPCs emphasis on principles and ideology in its development strategy. This contrasts sharply with the paucity of genuinely ideological parties in Nigeria and many other Sub-Saharan African countries
As Nigeria has transitioned toward democracy since the death of its last military dictator Sani Abacha in 1998, such open praise of China’s authoritarian system appears contradictory. Yet it is also not surprising. According to a 2014 BBC World Service poll, Nigeria was the most pro-Chinese country in the world, with 85 percent of Nigerians viewing Beijing’s influence in the world positively.
Unlike the transactional natural resources-for-capital relationships China has forged with many other African countries, China has formed a durable political alliance with Nigeria over the past few decades. China has also developed strong cultural linkages with Nigeria, through student exchange programs and media proliferation. This successful soft power campaign provides an effective model for Chinese policymakers to follow in their attempts to strengthen Beijing’s alliances with other African countries.
China’s Political Alliance with Nigeria: A Special Relationship
China’s political alliance with Nigeria dates back to its initial establishment of diplomatic relations with Lagos in 1971. This normalization of ties overcame hostilities engendered by China’s tacit support for Biafra against the Soviet and U.S.-backed Nigerian government during the 1967-1970 civil war.
As Nigeria was seeking to profit from surging oil prices during the 1970s but was stigmatized in the West due to human rights abuses perpetrated by its military dictatorships, China became a vital political ally and market for Nigerian oil.
From the start of the Beijing-Lagos political alliance, Nigeria asserted its foreign policy autonomy and was determined to avoid becoming a Chinese satellite. Nigeria supported the Soviet-backed MPLA in Angola after civil war erupted in 1975, while China aligned with the FNLA, a leading rival faction. China’s decision to support the U.S.-backed FNLA caused many Nigerians to view Beijing’s rhetorical commitment to “anti-imperialism” as hypocritical.
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