Removing Taiwan as a Major Impediment in Nigeria’s Strategic Partnership with Mainland China


Internationale with Bola A. Akinterinwa

Telephone : 0807-688-2846


What Taiwan’s relationship with mainland China is, can be likened to the relationship between the Casamance province and the Dakarois authorities in Senegal. It is also not different from the relationship between the separatist movements (Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB; Independent People of Biafra, IPOB; Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND; etc) and Aso Rock in Nigeria. It is a relationship of struggle for autonomy by the component parts of the various countries but which their legitimate governments in place do not agree with. In other words, the way Nigeria is hostile to self-determination by any constituent part of Nigeria is not different from the hostility of the Beijing authority to Taiwan’s quest for sovereign autonomy.

Taiwan became an issue in Chinese foreign policy following the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on October 1, 1949. Before then, it was the story of Old China in which the people of China were ‘tragically bullied, humiliated and plundered by big powers’ following the Opium War of 1840. The new China wants to do away with the humiliation, and particularly with the sour inspirations following the War of Resistance against Japan, the Chinese War of Liberation or the opposition to the ‘US aggression and interference’ as a result of the ‘US pro-Chiang (Kai-shek) and anti-Communist activities carried out under the disguise of mediating the civil war between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China.’

And true, the sour inspirations have prompted and strengthened the resolve of the New China to defend the values and principles of national unity and independence, sovereignty and internationalism, friendly cooperation and international justice, human progress and peaceful coexistence. To a great extent, however, Taiwan remains a general irritant in the foreign policy calculations of the PRC. Therefore, the PRC has to fight tooth and nail for the integration of Taiwan and international understanding in global politics, including in its relations with Nigeria.

And true enough, Taiwan has been part of China since ancient times. However, as a result of the defeat of China during the China-Japan war of 1894-1895, the Qing Government was forced to cede Taiwan to Japan. In the eyes of the West, the cession of Taiwan was a theft. For instance, on 1st December, 1943 the Governments of China, United States and Britain clearly stated in their Cairo Declaration that ‘all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa, the Pescadores shall be restored to the Republic of China (ROC:Taiwan). More important, on 26th July, 1945 the Potsdam Declaration which articulated the conditions of surrender of Japan ‘reiterated the terms of the Cairo Declaration.

As noted by the New Horizon Press in 1990, ‘on 25 October 1945, the Commander of the Japanese 10th Area Forces and Governor of Taiwan Kikichi Ando surrendered to China, and thus, Taiwan and Penghu Islands (the Pescadores) resumed their original status as part of the Chinese territory de facto, as well as de jure.’

Even though US President Truman made it clear that the US ‘had no predatory designs on Formosa or any other Chinese territory’ and that ‘the US will not pursue a course which will lead to involvement in the civil conflict in China,’ the truth is that the US would act to the contrary following the outbreak of the Korean War: President Truman ordered the Seventh Fleet to prevent any attack on Formosa and subjecting the determination of the future status of Formosa to the restoration of security in the Pacific, peaceful settlement with Japan and consideration by the United Nations.

In fact, the Seven Fleet began invasion of the Taiwan Strait from June 27, 1950. US control of Taiwan was stepped up with the establishment of US naval and air bases. With the US intervention, Taiwan became a double-edged issue to be addressed: sovereignty over Taiwan and withdrawal of American forces from Taiwan.

This prompted not only Chairman Mao Zedong to call on ‘people throughout China and the world to unite and make adequate preparation to defeat the provocation by American imperialism,’ but also why the Chinese Foreign Minister Zhou en Lai had to declare that American intervention was an aggression and gross violation of the UN Charter and that ‘no matter what obstructive action the American imperialists may take, the fact that Taiwan is part of China will remain unchanged forever.’

Without any shadow of doubt, the change in the policy stand of the United States cannot be separated from the then Cold War politics: there was strong rivalry between socialism and capitalism. Mainland China (PRC) was, and still is, socialist while Taiwan (ROC) was, and still is, Capitalist. The US wants Taiwan to be distinctly capitalist, sovereign and independent. China says unconditional ‘no.’ In ensuring this, it is stated in the Joint Communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the United States that the United States accepted the Government of the PRC as the sole legal government of China and that Taiwan is part and parcel of One China. However, this recognition did not prevent the US President, Jimmy Carter, from proposing on 26 January, 1979 legislative adjustment bills on US-Taiwan relations which would help to maintain commercial, cultural and other ties with Taiwan on non-official basis. An American Institute was also to be set up. Indeed, the US Congress passed the bills to the dislike of the Chinese, especially that the Taiwan Relations Act would continue to provide Taiwan with defence articles and defence services.

In an attempt to find an enduring compromise to the question of Taiwan, particularly the Sino-American political lull, the ‘One Country, Two Systems,’ was formulated and promoted. This is precisely the formula Nigeria’s foreign policy has always defended theoretically right from the time Nigeria and China established diplomatic ties in 1971, but which has had no relevant meaning in practice.

Taiwan in Sino-Nigerian Relations
Nigeria’s policy on the issue of Taiwan appears to be that of unintended double standard, but the Chinese authorities have generally not taken kindly to this, even though they have continued to show understanding of Nigeria’s many problems in the hope for better days to come when there might be a change of policy. In the course of China’s policy tolerance, Beijing has been conscious and not quick in acceding to Nigeria’s quest for development assistance mainly because of the visible contradiction between Nigeria’s declaratory policy of support for ‘One China, two systems’, that is One China, politically speaking, and Two Systems, economically speaking, and acquiescence of the Trade Mission of Taiwan as an accredited diplomatic mission in Abuja, the political capital of Nigeria.

In general diplomatic practice, only recognised sovereign states can accredit diplomatic missions and consular missions to another country. In some cases, the consulates are integrated part of the mission. In some others, they operate in other parts of the receiving state. All depend on the extent of importance of the relationship, the population of nationals involved, the territorial size of the receiving country.

What is noteworthy here is that, grosso modo, under no circumstance is a constitutive member state of a country allowed to operate as an accredited mission where the sovereign country is itself recognised. Put differently, no component group of whatever kind can enter into international relations as another sovereign state. The presence of Taiwan in Nigeria, the manner it operates in Nigeria clearly gives the wrong impression that Taiwan is an independent and sovereign country. It gives the impression that the Government of Nigeria has also recognised it as such. More importantly, it also gives the wrong impression, particularly at the level of the Chinese, that the Government of Nigeria is not a worthy and trust-worthy country to probably take serious. If the Chinese hold this view, they may not be faulted because the actions of the people of Nigeria, the official action of Government lend much credence to the inconsistency in Government’s policy declaration and what it does in practice.

For instance, during the recent visit of the Chinese Foreign Minister to Nigeria, Nigeria and China agreed in a joint statement that ‘the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are committed to strengthening the longstanding friendship and cooperation between the two countries to the benefit of their peoples.’ The statement was released by Xinhua on Wednesday, 11th January, 2017. Perhaps more significantly, the Xinhua also has it that ‘the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria reaffirm their respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.’

It is quite good to express commitment to the need to strengthen the relations but it is better to translate the commitment into action. It is also quite good to reaffirm respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Nothing could be more interesting than Nigeria’s plain truth in the Joint Statement when ‘the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria recognizes that there is only one China in the world, that the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory. The Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria reiterates not to have any official relations or engage in any official contacts with Taiwan, and supports all efforts made by the Chinese Government to realize national reunification.’

As explained by Geoffrey Onyeama, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, ‘Taiwan will stop enjoying any privileges because it is not a country that is recognised under international law and under the position we have taken internationally, we recognise the people of China… Taiwan will not have any diplomatic representation in Nigeria and also they will be moving to Lagos to the extent that they function as a trade mission with a skeletal staff.’

There is every reason to believe the position of the Government of Nigeria for various reasons: Nigeria does not have any diplomatic mission in Taiwan. No Taiwanese ambassador has presented any Letters of Credence to the President of Nigeria, meaning that there is no Letter of Withdrawal and no fresh Letter of Appointment. In fact, there is no evidence of any third State acting on behalf of Nigeria in Taiwan. All observers and students of Nigeria’s foreign policy are agreed that Nigeria maintains that Taiwan is an inalienable part of Mainland China.

In this regard, if Nigeria does not have any official engagements with Taiwan, what is China therefore quarrelling with? Is China quarrelling with the officious and unofficial ties at the level of the people of Nigeria? What China appears to be dissatisfied with may be the arrogance with which members of the Taiwanese Trade Mission frolic around and purporting to have a diplomatic status in Nigeria.

For instance, Governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed A. Abubakar, paid a courtesy visit to the so-called ‘Taiwanese Ambassador’, Mr Morgan Chao, at his Abuja residence
( In this regard, how would such a visit have taken place without notification to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? A Governor can visit the head of any trade mission. The Taiwanese ambassador, if we may use the word for Mr. Chao, can be a personal friend to the Governor, who can on this basis pay him visit. However, when Taiwan says it is a Republic, implying sovereignty, does the Bauchi State Governor not know Nigeria’s foreign policy on China?

If the governor does not know, is the Governor unaware of the diplomatic procedure? If he does not know, how do we explain the issuance of a Corp Consulaire vehicle plate number 154 CC 06 to the Taiwanese Trade Mission? More disturbing, international diplomatic practice has it that diplomatic missions are to be located in the political capital. This was why former military president Ibrahim Gbadamasi compelled all embassies, high commissions, and high representations to move to Abuja when the political capital was moved from Lagos to Abuja in 1992. Explained differently, as a trade mission, Taiwan should not have had its trade mission in Abuja. Unfortunately, it has it there with notice that it is a Republic of China (ROC).

Consequently, Nigeria’s reaffirmation of ‘One China’ is at best meaningless if it is not backed by action. These statements are therefore interesting because they belie the situational reality on the ground. This is why, at the level of China, there is grudge, and most unfortunately, the grudge has not precisely allowed Nigeria to take maximum advantage of the opportunities that her strategic partnership with China offers. Thus, China is yet to begin to relate with Nigeria with full hearts.

Even if the Government of the People’s Republic of China claims to appreciate the ‘recent measures taken accordingly by the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and reaffirms its commitment to actively developing China-Nigeria Strategic Partnership across the board,’ there is no disputing the fact that, for as long as concrete measures to remove Taiwan as an irritant in Nigeria’s foreign policy calculations, and particularly as they relate to China, Nigeria cannot but be the loser in the long run when the relationship is put on a comparative scale with other countries in Africa. Giving support to Taiwan as a self-proclaimed ‘’republic’ can only encourage the struggle for self-determination of the MASSOB and IPOB in Nigeria.

Consequently, as Nigeria has more to gain from mainland China in the long run than Taiwan, there is the need to completely remove Taiwan out of the Nigerian-Chinese foreign policy equation, because the volume of trade between Nigeria and China in 2016 was $10.62 billion (representing about 35% China-ECOWAS trade in the same period), compared to only $237.58 million for Nigeria-Taiwan in 2015. Consequently, in completely removing Taiwan as a source of misunderstanding in Nigeria’s relations with China, Nigeria must truly go beyond rhetoric because, under President Olusegun Obasanjo, the issue of Taiwan’s presence in Abuja was raised and the Taiwanese mission was directed to move to Lagos. How do we then explain the re-appearance of Taiwan in Abuja again? Could it be that the mission never left? If it never left, why was there no policy follow-up?

Let us simply agree with Foreign Minister Onyeama that ‘it was not very clear how it got into Nigeria system – an arrangement for the Taiwan for a trade mission.’ But in agreeing, there is the need to know henceforth how policy is not only made but also how it is implemented. The Taiwanese case is a clear illustration of non-coordination in foreign policy processes in which unnecessary contradictions have been allowed to prevail.

Nigeria should not follow United States’ dual policy towards China because it has become necessary for Nigeria to be Nigeria, to be authentic, and to be a source of sweet inspirations for the entire people of Africa and the Black world by promoting mutual trust worthiness, self-reliance and mutual respect in foreign policy. These are factors of greatness for Nigeria to promote..