Nigeria and China have a vast cultural experiences over decades.
Although China and Nigeria have vastly different historical experiences and cultural traditions, China has been remarkably successful in its efforts at promoting Chinese culture in Nigeria.
Student exchanges and the proliferation of Chinese media in Nigeria have been the primary mechanisms underpinning the increasing cultural synergy between the two countries.
Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Zhou Pingjian had at the Chinese New Year celebration this year at the Chinese cultural center in Abuja said,” the joint cultural performances by Nigerians and Chinese made the people had shared the joyous moments together; interacted with each other for friendship, for goodwill share each other’s light moments: This forms the basis for bilateral relations, because for every bilateral relation, we seek the public support of the people. We have to facilitate a better understanding between people from both sides.”
“China attaches great importance to our bilateral tie, and wish to work with Nigeria to further deepen political mutual trust, enhance mutually beneficial economic cooperation and promote people-to-people and cultural exchanges between our two side, in order to fully implement the outcome of Johannesburg Summit and President Buhari’s visit to China and upgrade China-Nigeria strategic partnership to a new level”.
In 2007, Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Akwa, Nigeria, established a Confucius Institute to teach the Chinese language to Nigerian students.
As business linkages between China and Nigeria have grown rapidly in recent years, the institute was a successful project.
Its success was acknowledged on June 29, when the Chinese embassy in Abuja announced the establishment of Nigeria’s first Chinese Cultural Research Center.
The embassy also pledged to create an Igbo language institute in China to encourage Chinese university graduates to work for Chinese companies in Nigeria.
To encourage Nigerian students to study in China, the Chinese government has emphasized China’s cultural diversity. Yet concerns about racism in China remain an obstacle to deeper cultural integration and could deter Nigerian graduates from Chinese universities from making valuable contributions to the Chinese economy.
This concern has been especially relevant in Guangzhou, a city that has been the site of a major influx of Nigerian-Igbo immigration over the past decade.
The second prong of China’s soft power campaign in Nigeria that is media proliferation, has been more unequivocally successful than student exchanges. Through the StarTimes initiative, the Chinese government has been able to establish media linkages with Africa’s largest television network , the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).
With the NTA’s support, China has been able to attract more visitors to cultural exchange events like the opening of a China Gallery in Nigeria’s national library and showcase Chinese culture to Nigerians residing in 18 major cities.
Nigeria’s Ministry of Information has urged China to reciprocate by featuring more Nigerian programs in China. This proposal has captured the interest of Chinese officials seeking to expand the bilateral trade partnership, which has grown six-fold over the past decade.
The Chinese film industry has been highly successful in promoting its showcase productions to a Nigerian audience as well. The December 2015 Chinese film festival in Lagos, featuring Chinese films like Chinese Zodiac, Confucius, and Monkey King, attracted large numbers of students and Nigerian government representatives.
As more Nigerians learn Chinese, turnout to these events will almost certainly increase.
Samuel Ramani who contributes regularly to the Washington Post and Huffington Post, amongst other publications, said,” China’s special relationship with Nigeria, forged through deep-rooted political bonds and cultural exchanges, is a major victory for its soft power campaign in Africa. As pro-Chinese sentiments in Nigeria are overwhelming at both the elite and popular level, Nigeria is a perfect testing ground for future Chinese alliance-building efforts in other African countries in the years to come.”