Cultural Exchanges between Nigeria and China dates back February 10, 1971, when the duo established formal diplomatic ties. However, Nigeria upped the game by establishing a full fledge Cultural Centre in Beijing in 2012. China reciprocated by setting up a Cultural Centre in Abuja, Nigeria, in 2013. In this interview with DANIEL BENJAMIN, China’s Cultural Counsellor at the embassy of China, and the Director of Chinese Cultural Centre, Mr Li Xuda said “A lot have been achieved in China and Nigeria’s government to government and people to people relations.”
QUESTION: From records, Chinese Culture is assumed to be among the richest and most dynamic in the world, why do you think this is so?
First of all, you know, China is a very large country with huge population and long written history that dates back to about five thousand years. China has developed into famous civilisation, one of the four ancient civilisations like Egypt and others. At the same time I want to mention that Nigeria is a great country with rich culture. You have a long history. You have many wonderful, beautiful and splendid civilisations like China. We have similarities in cultural field. Another thing is, Chinese People are diligent and working so hard. Generation after generation, year after year, creatively, we became famous for inventions like producing so many things like paper making, gun powder making, making of compass for ships to navigate in the ocean so that they can know the path. In modern times, China has made a lot of contribution to the world peace and development. We have many new inventions like e-commerce, which was developed in China. Just like Nigeria has developed very quickly in its economic, social and culture sectors. China and Nigeria have a lot in common to share. So, we are good brothers and good partners.
QUESTION: When did Nigeria and China established formal cultural exchange, I mean, at governmental level?
Cultural Exchanges between Nigeria and China dates back to February 10, 1971, the year Nigeria and China established formal diplomatic relations. This is the 47th anniversary of our development relations. In commemoration, His Excellency, Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr Zhou Pingjian from what I know, paid visit to three famous universities in Nigeria, where 47 excellent students were selected from each of the three universities for various forms of scholarships. Through education, we are trying our best to help Nigerian people.
Question: You established a Cultural Centre in Nigeria in 2013, what was the motivation behind the action?
The move is to deepen our cultural relations. Before the establishment of the Chinese Cultural Centre in Nigeria, both countries had agreement. Nigeria first established a Cultural Centre in Beijing, China. Then in 2013, China decided to setup its Cultural Centre in Nigeria. It is to enrich our cultural and education exchanges. Like I mentioned during the 5th anniversary of Chinese Cultural Centre in Nigeria, “The Cultural Centre is setup as a platform for our two countries, government to government, people to people exchanges. “Certainly, is like a window through which Chinese People can come to see the Nigerian people the same way the Nigerian people can come through the window to know more about China people.
“It is like a bridge; let our two peoples use this bridge to do business, education and many other things, in which our people can connect with each other very easily.” The Centres can provide information and at the same time, we can organise bigger events, festivals and national holidays. Coincidentally, Nigeria and China shares the same national holiday (October 1st). Our two countries can host bigger events.
Question: Festival is an aspect of culture; recently, you celebrated ‘Moon Festival.’ What is Moon Festival?
You know in China, we have four seasons: Spring, summer, autumn, and Winter. Spring seasons generally are for planting and the autumn season is for harvest. So, when the mid-autumn season comes, it is time for harvest. Chinese People use the mid-autumn ‘Moon Festival’ to have a reunion for the family. They get together to celebrate harvest and brighter future. Moon Festival is a traditional Chinese Festival.
Nigeria has many ethnic groups and as such, multiple cultures, the head of ethnic Traditional Institutions doubles as custodian of their cultures, have your Centre been collaborating with traditional institutions in Nigeria?
Yes! I can tell you that since I came here last year, I made lot of friends with the local people working in the cultural and education field and we have been enjoying good collaboration with co-hosting of some events. We have collaboration with National Council for Arts Culture, NCAC, Federal Capital Cultures and Arts department, Ministry of Education.
Also, the newly established China Cultural Village will be hosting many events together as time goes on. Through these government to government, people to people exchanges; we can deepen our cultural relations that our both people can benefit from.
QUESTION: In your own understanding, what is the relationship between culture and tourism?
I think culture and tourism should be put together. It is better to promote either through culture style and at the same time, if you want to promote your culture, you can use tourism concept to promote your culture. You know, tourism gives people some platform to relax themselves, while at the same time learning some values. Each country has its own values, including Nigeria. China and Nigeria share common values like care for our peoples, our children, it is through these mediums that we can promote our tourism sector.
QUESTION: There are many tourist sites in Nigeria that are yet to be developed. What are you doing to expose Chinese investors to tourism potentials in Nigeria?
Few days ago, I invited some youths to attend our Culture and Tourism talk shop at the Chinese Cultural Centre. The event turned out to be very successful. It was co-hosted by Embassy of China and China Cultural Centre in Nigeria. The theme of the talk shop was “Youths, Tourism, Development and Organisation. Participants were drawn from China and Nigeria on the way to move the culture and tourism sector in our both countries forward.
To me, Nigeria is a great country with splendid natural resources and at the same time, splendid human resources with so many young people. If we promote our tourism industry, it will create many jobs, which will solve unemployment problems. It will also give the youths the opportunities to develop themselves.
On my part, I will do my best to expose Nigeria’s tourism potentials to Chinese investors. Encourage Chinese to come here and see Nigeria’s tourism potentials. I will encourage Chinese businessmen to come and invest in Nigeria’s tourism industry. By these measures, we can move Nigeria’s tourism sector forward faster.