1.1 Background of the Study
The relationship between Nigeria and China has been cooperative and cordial,
especially between 1999 and 2009. At independence, Nigeria adopted a broadly prowestern policy and did little to establish diplomatic relations with China. Formal
diplomatic ties between the two countries came into being in 1971, barely a year after
the end of the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970). However, following China‟s
economic growth in the 1980s, Nigerian leaders began to look forward to a more
serious economic engagement with China.
During the military regime of General Sani Abacha, Nigeria turned to China for
military assistance and training of the Nigeria Army; perhaps to help the government
suppress the domestic opposition to autocratic rule in Nigeria. By the time of 1999,
when Nigeria experienced political transition from military rule to democratic
administration, there has been renewed content and context in Nigeria-China
relations. The details of such expanded relationship are the contents of chapter four
(4) of this study. Overall, after a lull in Nigeria‟s relations with it‟s outside world; as a
result of the hostility and paranoid (Fawole, 1999 cited in Ojo, 2005) that
characterized the country‟s foreign affairs, the 1999 political change over marked the
beginning of a renewed relationship with other nations of the world. It is within this
context that the Nigeria-China relation is considered in the study.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Despite the benefit, which the two countries derived from their bilateral
relationship, analysts have argued that the relationship between Nigeria and China
was complex and was never going to be straightforward. But is this relationship the
tale of two giants, as (Alaba Ogunsanwo, 2008 cited in Gregory, 2009), the
distinguished Nigerian academic and former diplomat would has alleged it, or rather,
employing the phrase of the Chinese periodical Chinafrica, a more parochial story of
a global „elephant‟ and just one of many Third World „ants‟? The two tales converge
concerning China‟s status, which both views correctly characterize as weighty, but
diverge in Nigeria. Nigerian officials have noted that there is an unbalanced system in
Nigeria-China relations in which the Chinese world become the dominant power
while Nigeria would lack the capacity to exert her influence in political dealings
(Gregory, 2009). Similar short comings existed in the area of technology transfer and
job creation for Nigerian citizen-public officials outside the foreign affairs sectors
complained that although Chinese business men were more attractive partners
because the development gap is less daunting than with the west actual technological
transfer and job creation was low because the Chinese imported their own labour to
Nigeria (Utomi, 2009:42). This created a debate among the public officials about how
Nigerian‟s relation with China could be better managed. From the foregoing, it
appears that Abuja-Beijing bilateral relations were cordial between 1999 and 2009
except for a few instances where Nigerians complained about poor Chinese labour
policy and Chinese substandard goods.
However, from 2007 onward, Nigeria-Chinese relations faced a new challenge
with the failed effort of President Olusegun Obasanjo to secure a third term in office.
Obasanjo campaigned for the late President Umar‟ Musa Yar‟Adua who was
eventually elected the President in 2007. Yar‟Adua, however, continued to review all
the agreement signed between Nigeria and China, which mostly resulted either in the
suspension or cancellation of these contracts. Between 2007 and 2009, Abuja-Beijing
relationship was not totally cooperative as some Chinese companies decided not to
sign pact with the Federal Government any longer but rather would partner with State
Government. Given this background, this research focuses on the Obasanjo‟s “Oil for
Infrastructures” policy and the benefits, which the Nigerian Government derived from
this policy from 1999 to 2009 and proceeds to suggest possible solution to the
ongoing imbalance in Nigeria-Chinese economic diplomacy since the assumption of
President Yar‟Adua to power in 2007.
1.3 Research Questions
In the course of this research work the following questions will be examined:
1. What is the impact of the historical ties between Nigeria and China on the
2. What are the domestic and international factors that influence the NigeriaChina relationship?
1.4 Objectives of the Study
1. To examine the historical development of Nigeria-Chinese relations from
2. To evaluate the relationship between Nigeria and China especially during the
former‟s transition programme.
3. To analyze Nigeria‟s relationship with China in key areas such as bilateral
trade, oil and gas, power generation, rail transport system, road construction,
communication, manufacturing and retail loan finance and general free trade
This research would be guided by the following assumptions:
1. There is a significant relationship between bilateral economic relations and
2. There is a significant correlation between bilateral agreement and increase in
Chinese trade to Nigeria.
3. There is a significant relationship between Sino Nigeria relations and
prospects for Nigeria‟s economic development.
1.6 Significance of the study
The significance of this study cannot be underrated. This study will enhance our
general historical knowledge of the bilateral relations between Nigeria and China
especially in the sectors of bilateral trade, economic relations, politics, and sociobilateral relations. There is privation of literature in respect of trade relations between
Nigeria and Asian countries specifically China, in contra distinction to the volume of
work written about the trade relations between Nigeria and other countries of the
world, specifically European and American countries. Consequently, this research
will serve as a reference material for further research on the subject. A thorough,
detailed and scholarly investigated research of this nature will close the existing gap
in the literature on the subject.
The importance of this study to the field of international relations is that this study
relates the importance of bilateral trade relations as a means of change and
development, most certainly when the nations involved are in need of each other.
However, the trade relationship should target the major need of any member in terms
of real change and development. International relations therefore can be linked with
the pattern and scope of international trade.
1.7 Scope and Limitations:
This study focuses on Nigeria-China relation‟s references from bilateral relations,
which existed between 1999-2009. Analysis in this study will cover key areas in
Nigeria-China relations, which include the economy, political, and socio-cultural
sectors. However, the research will also utilize the historical analysis of the previous
periods before the scope of this study. This study therefore examines economic and
trade relations between the two countries, meticulously looking at the trends,
problems and prospects.
The major limitation to this study is time and money limitation. Time is a
limitation to the study because I would have loved to visit People‟s Republic of China
(PRC) itself but this cannot be fulfilled because I have been restricted to a particular
period of time for the completion of this research work. And during my field analysis
I was not able to gain access to China Embassy.
1.8 Organization of Study
The report of this study will be organized in five chapters as follows:
In the structure of this study, chapter one examines the introductory sections, which
will deal exclusively with the background to the study, statement of the problem,
objectives of the study, scope of study as well as limitations to the study. Chapter
two consists of literature reviews and theoretical framework related to the topic.
Chapter three focuses on research methodology. Chapter four focuses on the
overview of Nigeria and China relations before 1999, the relations between Nigeria
and China, prospects and problems and strategic implications. Chapter five examines
the summary, conclusion, and sound recommendations would be elaborated as
solutions in respect to the essence of study.
1.9 Definition of Terms
Bilateral relations: refers to the relationship between two independent regions.
Cultural, economic, and political factors influence this relationship (Bilateral Trade).
Economic: Economic activity that involves participants of two countries, most
obviously trade but other forms as well. Some pairs of countries that have essentially
no political relations nonetheless have economic relations (Economic).
Foreign policy: implies as consisting of decisive actions which involve to some
appreciable extent relations between one state and the others (Frankel, 1967 cited in
Sino-Nigeria relations: refer to international relation, between Nigeria and the
government of People’s Republic of China (PRC).
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