Lessons of China’s Growth Model for Nigeria

Chinese presidentEvidently, China is a critical study in growth and national development framework, imperatives and mechanisms. In the past three decades China has witnessed unprecedented economic boost and intensification, surpassing by far any other country’s record. This verifiable reality makes China’s approach an incontrovertible model for developing nations desirous to advance economically.
My recent visit to China reinforced this reality. It also affirmed my belief that Nigeria has a lot of lessons to learn from China if it must genuinely grow its economy and consolidate national development. A strong Kano State delegation led by the state Governor, Musa Rabiu Kwakwanso, was in China last month on an economic mission. I was privileged to be on the team. The delegation was in Xiamen, China to attend the country’s International Fair for Trade and Investment. Our focus was essentially to use the visit as a springboard towards strengthening the economic growth of Kano, the commercial nerve centre of the Northern part of Nigeria.
The visit was in fact quite revealing in many respects. China boasts of rich scientific advancement, high technology, and unparallel infrastructural base. These realities stir you arrogantly in the face as you step down from the aircraft, at Beijing Airport, leaving you in no doubts with regards to China’s status as a global economic giant, second to only the United States. The visits we embarked upon to some of its industrial clusters and factories revealed to us a super industrialized nation whose economic steam and model have in no small way overwhelmed the world.
In principle and practice, these observations about China are indeed unassailable. It is on record that currently China is second largest foreign investment destination in the world after the United States. On average, China accounts for daily inflow of foreign investment exceeding $100m. Between 1979 and 2011 China was said to have recorded foreign investment of over $1.1trillion. Chen Mingming, the senior communication advisor to the Chinese Foreign Ministry in a chat with me captures this more vividly thus: “among the global 500 companies, 490 have opened factories in China. Almost all Apple products are assembled in China”.
Similarly, China’s foreign exchange reserve in 2011 stood at $3.25trillion the biggest in the world, accounting for 27.5 per cent of the global total. Of the amount, $1.16trillion was used as US treasury bonds in 2012. The country’s GDP reached 8 trillion dollars in 2012, next to the US in the world.
China’s industrialization rate has surpassed global realities. In the auto industry, for instance, records show that only last year China produced well over 19 million cars and thus exceeding the United States to become number one auto producer in the world. Its target, according to Mingming is to become the largest auto market in the world.
Chairman Mao Zedong, leader of Communist Party of China proclaimed the founding of People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949 which marked the beginning of new China. At that time until decades later, China was mainly an agrarian society. Over 90 per cent of the population were said to be rural. Poverty, civil strife and starvation were common place. Many of the Chinese were said to be living in squalor, under-development was the nation’s bane. But 60 years after, China has become the economic leader of the world.
Recent statistics suffice here. In 1978, for instance, China’s GDP stood at 268 billion dollars, ranking 15th in the world; 24 years later, 2012 it reached all time eight trillion dollars, making China next to the United States. China’s share of global GDP rose from 1.8 per cent in 1978 to close to 11.6 per cent in 2012. Evidently, China has in the past three decades witnessed unmatched economic leap.
The puzzle then is how has China been able to achieve this exceptional result in human history? Mingming explained that after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, Deng Xiaoping who took over from him had a great sense of pragmatism. “He believed that China had to change course and lost no time in starting a daring reform and opening-up program”, he stressed.
He elaborated that China’s reform started in the rural areas by giving farmers more incentives and commencement of agricultural mechanization. China thus encouraged its farmers to set up small factories which absorbed millions of surplus rural labour force. Sweeping urban reform, according to him, was also introduced in the early 1980s. And it involved price control of most products lifted; capital market developed; stock exchanges set up; business acquisition and merger encouraged.
Part of the frameworks that accelerated development in China Mingming noted was development of housing market in late 1990s, creating huge demand for private housing. Ascribing housing sector as the engine driving China’s development, he said that in the past 15 years China had built enough buildings to house combined population of Germany, France and United Kingdom. The housing sector and infrastructure account for one-fourth of global steel demand.
Chinese growth model which took the world by storm was facilitated by a number of factors. We were told that the determination and commitment of the political leadership towards development agenda played a key in China’s success story. Other ingredients include; forging consensus between the people and government and political leadership’s resolve and corrupt-free tendencies in embarking on the reform regime.
Other checklist that made China’s magic possible, however, include; pursuit of government guided market operations; embracing of globalization and leveraging on China’s comparative advantages. Moreover, enhancement of education sector by developing a pool of competent professionals and pursuit of sound and sustainable development contributed largely to the positive results.
Understandably, China’s success story should be quite instructive to Nigeria that has for long been grappling with the shackles of under-development. China serves as a remarkable model to Nigeria, a lesson to Nigeria’s economic malady, disorientation, and disconcertion. The starting point obviously is putting together a visionary, resolute, committed and corrupt-free political leadership to drive a realistically-designed reform regime.
Consequently, it is only plausible to submit that conscious efforts are made for Nigeria to understudy the principle that has made China’s record success possible as a basis of our development roadmap. This makes the recent business mission embarked upon by Governor Kwankwanso and his economic team a development imperative. For Kano, we are lucky. In Kwankwaso we have discovered our own Mao Zedong and Deng Xioping
•Yusuf is the Chairman of Kano Entreprenuer Development

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