COVID-19: How Chinese businesses are rallying round ‘a great host’

China Chamber of Commerce In Nigeria Willing, Ready To Look Into Any Malpractice By Members
• Sino-Nigeria Partnership Mutually Beneficial – Cui
• It’s Our Responsibility to Give Back To A ‘Great Host’ – Jun

“A good and capable guest can come to the aid of its host in time of needs,” so says an African proverb.  It is perhaps in the light of this that Chinese businesses in Nigeria have been pulling their widow’s mite together to join forces with Nigeria, a country that has become their second home to wage war against Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Since the lethal virus, which is ravaging the world arrived in the country’s shores on February 27, 2020, governments at various levels have been mobilising resources to fight the scourge.

These governments are not waging the war against COVID-19 pandemic alone, but have been joined by friendly countries via their embassies, and businesses operating within the country. High-profile Nigerians, including businessmen and politicians have also donated large sums to governments to prosecute anti-COVID-19 campaign.

Interestingly, non-indigenous businessmen have not taken the back seat in showing support for the fight. One of such examples is Chinese businesses operating in the country.

Penultimate Saturday, in concert with the Chinese Consulate in Lagos, and in fulfillment of its earlier promise to support the country in the fight, cash donation and medical equipment valued at over N200m were made to the Lagos State government.

According to the Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Lagos, Chu Maoming, the Consulate and the local Chinese community mobilised the donations. Items donated include, 2, 000 pieces of thermometer (worth N120m) by the Consulate General; the sum of N35.38m; hand sanitizers worth N1.5m (by the Overseas Chinese Association in Lagos); 2, 000 masks; 50 hand sanitizers, 100 coverall clothing; 2, 000 gloves, and one ventilator (jointly worth N11.5m by the AfricaMed Group); 10, 000 masks worth N1.5m (by Tecno Group); one ambulance worth N20m; 20, 000 face masks worth N5.5m, and cheque donation of N20m (by Choice International), and another cheque donation of N9m (by Chinese Entrepreneurs Community in Lagos).

Maoming, who expressed hope that Lagos and indeed the country would win the battle against COVID-19, added that the Consulate General and Chinese community in Lagos would continue to help the country in whatever way it could to surmount the hurdle.

Said he: “Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Nigeria, the Lagos State government has been taking concrete and effective measures in fighting the pandemic. We highly appreciate the great efforts made by the Lagos State government in safeguarding the health and safety of its people, and the Chinese in greater Lagos area…

“China and Nigeria are members of a community with a shared future. Now faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, China and Nigeria are again tiding over difficulties hand-in-hand. We will never forget the support from the Lagos State government during our most difficult times, and it is only natural to help Lagos State fight the pandemic in the light of our friendship and cooperation,” the envoy stated.

The State Commissioner for Transport, Mr. Frederic Oladeinde, who received the items, thanked the donors, and maintained that the government at this time needs all the support to defeat the pandemic troubling the world.

The Chairperson, Chinese Women Association in Nigeria, Zhou Jun, who described Nigeria as their second home, said with the social and economic catastrophic effects of the virus, it has become mandatory that collective efforts are pushed forward to overcome the health challenge.

“With this in mind, the Chinese Consulate General in Lagos setup an initiative to Chinese-funded enterprises in Nigeria, the Chinese community and Chinese compatriots in Nigeria to come together to show support to Nigeria.

“Viruses have no borders and are a common challenge faced by all of mankind. China and Africa are a community of shared destiny, and helping African countries fight the pandemic is the proper meaning of China-Africa friendly cooperation. We are therefore committed to ensure we join the Lagos State government to fight and completely eradicate COVID-19 from Lagos and Nigeria as a whole… It is the responsibility of our Chinese compatriots to give back to the local society that has been a great host.”

Before the donation to the Lagos State government, the coalition of Chinese firms and nationals resident in the country had directed its member- organisations to identify states, governments, agencies, groups and, or individuals and give whatever support that they could.

Arising from this, Chinese companies within the country have made donations to different groups and government agencies.

For instance, only recently, a Chinese firm, Mutual Commitment Company Ltd, donated medical face masks and hand gloves to the Nigerian military and medical protection materials to the Bauchi State government.  The items donated to the military were received by the Chief of Defence Training and Operations, Maj.-Gen. Lucky Irabor, on behalf of the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, at the Defence Headquarters.

Another firm, Kenyang Mining Company Nigeria Limited, donated N3m and 30, 000 face masks to the Nasarawa State government.

Other Chinese firms that have also made donations to governments and groups in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic include, Wewood Limited; Viju Industries (Nigeria) Limited, while the association of Chinese women in Nigeria have also made donations to some orphanages in the country.

However, despite the conviviality mirrored by these presentations, these Chinese businessmen recently expressed worry at the recent destruction of one of their businesses at the Ogun Guangdong Free Trade Zone (OGFTZ), after a face-off with staff members due to the failure of management to clearly communicate government’s policy on the lockdown to its workers.

The businessmen also noted with concern, recent issues and sentiments that seem to threaten the mutual relationship that has long existed between both countries (and their nationals), stressing the need for such to be nipped in the bud so that matters do not degenerate further.

Importantly, they said all hands must be on deck to explore solutions with a view to ensuring that citizens of both countries continue to live, and go about their businesses in either country peacefully.

While urging nationals of both countries to desist from the destruction of lives, property and investments of either part in their countries, they said all parties must realise that engaging in such actions would have dire effects and consequences on their citizens and their countries.

Only recently, the social media was awash with videos suggesting that Nigerians and other Africans were forcefully ejected from their hotel rooms and forced to undergo COVID-19 test in China.

This development forced the former African Union Ambassador to the United States of America (USA), and President, Africa Diaspora Development Institute (ADDI), Arikana Chihombori-Quao, last week to kick against the alleged maltreatment of Africans in China, in an open letter to the Chinese President, Xi Jinping.

She described the kicking out of Nigerians and other African nationals from their homes and hotel rooms and subjection to inhumane treatments are serious violations of rights, which black people would not tolerate.

he Governor of Machakos County, Kenya, Dr. Alfred Mutua, also condemned alleged cases of racism towards Africans in China, and called for its immediate cessation.

The Federal Government, which initially blamed poor communication between Chinese authorities and African consulates in Guangzhou, China, for the alleged maltreatment of Africans, last week, on Thursday, made a volte-face and expressed shock and disappointment at the incident.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama had, at a press briefing in Abuja, in company with the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Zhou Pingjian, urged Nigerians to be objective in assessing situations such as the Guangzhou incident.

However, while fielding questions from journalists at Thursday’s daily briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 said the Federal Government would take steps to ensure that the rights of Nigerians and other Africans living in China are not breached, or abused, adding that Nigeria had been engaging with China Consular and the country’s Ambassador in Beijing.

Asked what further steps authorities of both countries should take to ensure that each other’s interests are not hurt, especially with Chinese investments in the country said to be in the region of $20b, and with over 200, 000 Nigerians employed in these outfits, the Director General, China Chamber of Commerce in Nigeria, Tristan Cui, said: “Both governments have issued statements saying that they are willing to work with each other. I have confidence that they will protect each other’s interest and investments. I, however, also read some wildly spread rumours on social media in harsh tone against Chinese and will urge our host government to kindly give it some attention.”

Reacting to the alleged ejection from hotels and homes of Africans and forceful testing for coronavirus, Cui said the matter was not as painted on the social media.

According to him, “A Chinese woman married to a Nigerian, who runs a restaurant patronised mostly by her husband’s compatriots tested positive. And this restaurant provided different African food and many Africans visited here. That’s why the government decided to conduct the test to avoid the spread of the virus. To test anyone who is suspected to have had contact with an affected person is one of the most important strategies of the Chinese government in stopping the epidemic.”

He continued: “The exercise was not only for Nigerians, but also for Chinese and other foreigners who had contact with the place. There were some improper behaviours from few people in Guangzhou, but such was modified by Chinese government immediately. The Chinese government stated clearly its position on zero tolerance for racism and cherishes the traditional friendship between China and Africa. We condemn any manner of maltreatment of Nigerians and other foreigners in China.”

On what specific steps Nigerians and Nigerian authorities should take to ensure a conducive atmosphere for both Chinese investors and their Nigerian hosts to operate, Cui admitted that, “there are still some rumours widely spread on social media. I will urge the Nigerian government to find ways to curb it and where necessary, help provide some clarification… “But generally speaking, Chinese business owners are still having good partnerships with their Nigerian hosts. But we also saw some dangerous voices on social media. These words actually got us a bit worried. I have always had a good experience in Nigeria and hope it won’t be affected by recent incidents.”

On claims by some persons that there could be a nexus between the alleged maltreatment of Nigerians in China and the demonstration by staff of a Chinese firm located at the Ogun Guangdong Free Trade Zone (OGFTZ), the China Chamber of Commerce in Nigeria boss said: “The incidents in Guangzhou can’t be said to be responsible for the incident, which happened at Ogun Guangdong Free Trade Zone. Legally speaking, damaging the properties of the factory is really against the law of Nigeria. At the same time, it also may adversely affect thousands of workers by causing job losses.”

Asked what steps should be taken to forestall skirmishes of this sort, especially since it emerged that failure of management to clearly communicate government’s policy on the lockdown and the eventual closure of the OGFTZ made some employees believe that the zone had restricted their freedom, hence, the demonstrations, he submitted, “More communications and better understanding on each other side will be the only way to avoid skirmishes in future.”

On whether there are mechanisms put in place by the body of Chinese businessmen to address/establish the veracity of claims by some Nigerian workers that their Chinese bosses were high-handed, Cui said, “If there are such issues, those companies are in Nigeria and thus operating under Nigerian laws. Therefore, such issues and conflicts I feel will be better resolved according to the guidance of Nigerian government and laws. China General Chamber of Commerce is willing and ready to look into such issues if necessary, and if brought to our attention.”

He further stressed that: “A good partnership between China and Nigeria can bring mutual benefit for both parties. We need to support each other, especially during this difficult epidemic period. Isolation and hatred cannot bring us any benefits. We should always remember that most Chinese and Nigerians are friendly and should not allow for hate speeches.”

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