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China’s foreign aid: How big is it and what is its aim? 0

China has greatly increased its foreign aid to developing countries in the recent years. On one hand China hopes to promote bilateral relations with recipient countries to enhance economic and trade cooperation; on the other the fast rising nation is shouldering its international responsibilities and promoting poverty reduction.

From 2010 to 2012, China allocated a total of 89.34 billion yuan (14.41 billion U.S. dollars) worth of foreign assistance. This amount no doubt is much smaller than the official development assistance of some big traditional donors such as the United States. However, as a developing country, China has tried its best in this regard. There is no need to deny that, by providing foreign aid, China hopes to promote bilateral relations with recipient countries, and to enhance the economic and trade cooperation with them. But most importantly, China is committed to promoting poverty reduction and development of the recipient countries, so as to finally realize the goal of common development together with other developing countries. China is willing to shoulder its international responsibility.

At present China has become the second largest economy in the world and is more and more engaged in the Asian and African affairs. As a result, China’s foreign aid has become a heated topic all over the world. How big is China’s foreign aid? How much of it goes to Africa? What are China’s motives? These questions have constantly been raised by the international community. However, no final answers have been provided so far. This article aims to address the above questions from the perspective of Chinese scholars.

How big is China’s Foreign Aid?

In 2008, NYU Wagner School released a report which pointed out that China’s foreign assistance and government-supported economic projects in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia grew from less than $1 billion in 2002 to $27.5 billion in 2006. [1] In 2012 and 2013, AidData, based at the College of William and Mary, compiled a database of thousands of media reports on Chinese-backed projects in Africa from 2000 to 2011. According to the database, China financed 1,673 projects in 50 African countries, amounting to a total of $75 billion of Chinese government’s official financial aid commitments, roughly similar in volume with the U.S. Foreign Aid to Africa (which reached $90 billion in the same period). [2] Unfortunately, in the above statistics, China’s foreign aid to Africa was apparently exaggerated a great deal, for it muddled up China’s foreign aid to Africa with China’s investment in Africa.

China’s Information Office of the State Council issued the first White Paper on China’s foreign aid in 2011. According to the 2011 white paper, China’s total foreign aid provided from 1950s to the end of 2009 amounted to 256.29 billion yuan ( The Chinese government didn’t put it in US dollars in the White Paper), 45.7% of which went to African countries. [3] On 10 July 2014, a second White Paper on China’s foreign aid was released. According to the reported statistics in this paper, foreign aid offered by China totaled 89.34 billion yuan (about 14.41 billion US dollars), 51.8% of which went to African countries.

Just as what the foreign observers have noticed, China’s foreign aid has been increasing tremendously ever since 2000. Based on the information, data and references available, the writers estimate the amount of China’s aid and the percentages of foreign aid in GNI since 2000 .as follows: China’s foreign aid increased from $0.64 billion, accounting for 0.05% of GNI in 2000, to $5.04 billion, accounting for 0.095% of GNI in 2009. From 2010 to 2012, China allocated a total $14.41 billion worth of foreign aid, accounting for 0.06% of the GNI in this period.

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By Luo Jianbo and Zhang Xiaomin

Picture credit: United Nations

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Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi