President Jiang Zemin made a state visit to Nigeria in April, which was expected to boost economic ties between the two countries. Bilateral trade rose to US$1.14bn in 2001 from US$857m in 2000, making Nigeria China’s third largest trading partner in Africa, after South Africa and Egypt.
Nigeria exports oil and gas, timber and cotton to China, while importing mainly light machinery. Chinese officials said that the visit would clear the way for a number of joint ventures between the two countries, including the construction of two large power plants in southwest Nigeria and a contract to rehabilitate the country’s railways, which was cancelled by Lagos last year.
Jiang’s visit was part of a five-nation trip to Africa and the Middle East that also included Libya and Iran, countries to which China sells arms technology. The main topic of talks with Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi and Iranian President Mohammad Khatami was the escalating Middle East crisis.