After almost four years as Chinese ambassador to Nigeria, Dr Zhou Pingjian will be leaving the country soon. His time in Nigeria has been one of unblemished diplomatic relations.
With a missionary zeal, Ambassador Pingjian tried to consolidate on existing areas of contact and create opportunities for further growth and development between the two countries.
No doubt, he took his country’s friendship with Nigeria to new heights of healthy growth and development. On assumption of duty in September 2016, the then new ambassador made it a point of duty to understand the country he would do business with on behalf of his country.
To achieve that, he embarked on a meet-the-people tour intended to take him to the nooks and crannies of Nigeria. And that was how he visited all the states, some of them more than once. It is on record that Dr Pingjian has been the only envoy so far to have completed such geographical cum cultural exercise.
Trying to know the terrain he was posted to was a foretaste of the boost he was to give to the relationship between our two countries. We appreciate the ambassador’s well thought-out move that has left an indelible impression on Nigeria.
By knowing the people firsthand, Dr Pingjian found an easier way of appreciating their existence so he could influence his home government’s policies towards the country and her people. Likely, some schools, hospitals and businesses he attracted to Nigeria have been products of his personal experience and assessment of the people’s needs.
The outgoing ambassador showed uncommon interest in the development of Nigeria’s rail system. The Abuja rail mass transit project, the first urban railway in West Africa, was commissioned in July 2018. The Lagos–Ibadan railway came alive in March 2017. Bilateral relations between Nigeria and China, which were established in 1971, have continued on an exemplary path: strengthening the common ties between the two countries while at the same time expanding areas of trade and strategic cooperation.
The diplomatic relations have flourished to the extent that China is considered one of Nigeria’s most important trading partners. Pingjian believes in the greatness of Nigeria. He used every forum to say that Nigeria has the potential to be like China because it bears similar historical experiences, development tasks, political aspirations, and has formed a very close community with a shared future.
The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) will certainly miss this quintessential diplomat who used sports and exchange programmes to build bridges across the Nigeria–China divide. We recall that, for years, he sponsored and sustained the Ping-Pong tournament that brought the Chinese community and Nigerian journalists together through a table-tennis championship.
Pingjian took the gains of that interaction a step further by initiating a media exchange programme which brought the All China Journalists Association, the Peoples Daily newspaper and Nigerian journalists in closer contact.
Every year, during his tenure, about 10 Nigerian journalists visited China as part of this exchange programme. As a newspaper, we consider the envoy’s line of thought important to follow. China has developed to be a world power in its own right. Business, educational and diplomatic relations between it and Nigeria are growing exponentially. What better way of smoothening interactions than through the understanding and use of language and cultural traits?
Thecooperation between China and Nigeria during the period of Pingjian as ambassador, we dare to say blossomed and it– delivered tangible benefits for the two peoples to a level that can be considered personal.
Confucius is about the greatest philosopher to have come out of that exciting Asian country. He represented the purity of Chinese thinking, culture and tradition. Pingjian, like every Chinese, is proud of his culture which has remained intact over the centuries even with the bombardments of Western culture and colonialism.
It was this firm belief in the Chinese world view that the ambassador decided to propagate when he influenced the setting up of the Confucius Institute in Nigerian universities for the study and appreciation of Chinese language and culture. During his stay in Nigeria, the outgoing envoy maintained that China would continue to contribute wisdom and strength to global issues including poverty alleviation, disease prevention and control as well as refugee relief.
He let the sunlight of common development dispel the shadow of poverty and backwardness and illuminate a future of shared prosperity.
As Covid-19 continued to ravage the world and in spite of China’s own challenges, the ambassador encouraged his government to extend help to Nigeria in the form of support services that led to the deployment of Chinese experts to this country. We join all Nigerians in bidding the departing Chinese envoy farewell.
Nigerians will miss him; and, surely, he will harbour fond memories of the friendship he cultivated in our country. It is our hope that he will continue to defend this interest anywhere his job takes him to. Thank you, Dr Pingjian, for your friendship and love for our country.