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China publishes foreign aid strategy

China publishes foreign aid strategy

Over at Xinhua you can check out the full text of the Chinese government’s new "white paper" on foreign aid strategy. Claire Provost has a good write-up at the Guardian, suggesting that the paper is aimed at dispelling the notion that China’s aid efforts in the developing world are merely a ploy to secure natural resources. That certainly how Chinese officials are selling it: 

On Tuesday, the Chinese vice-commerce minister, Fu Ziying, said foreign aid to Africa was motivated by solidarity. He pointed to China‘s role in constructing the Tanzania-Zambia railway, which was financed by a $500m interest-free loan from Beijing between 1970 and 1975. "Just as western countries abandoned newly independent Africa, the Chinese came," said Fu. "Sixty nine sacrificed their lives and thousands laboured with the Tanzanian and Zambian people. Why? For friendship."

Of course this was during a period when China was more interested in bolstering ideological allies than obtaining resources. Indeed, the white paper begins its summary of the history of China’s aid efforts by noting that "China’s foreign aid began in 1950, when it provided material assistance to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Vietnam."

Here’s how the white paper defines the thinking behind Beijing’s current efforts:

- Unremittingly helping recipient countries build up their self-development capacity. Practice has proved that a country’s development depends mainly on its own strength. In providing foreign aid, China does its best to help recipient countries to foster local personnel and technical forces, build infrastructure, and develop and use domestic resources, so as to lay a foundation for future development and embarkation on the road of self-reliance and independent development.

- Imposing no political conditions. China upholds the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, respects recipient countries’ right to independently select their own path and model of development, and believes that every country should explore a development path suitable to its actual conditions. China never uses foreign aid as a means to interfere in recipient countries’ internal affairs or seek political privileges for itself.

- Adhering to equality, mutual benefit and common development. China maintains that foreign aid is mutual help between developing countries, focuses on practical effects, accommodates recipient countries’ interests, and strives to promote friendly bilateral relations and mutual benefit through economic and technical cooperation with other developing countries.

- Remaining realistic while striving for the best. China provides foreign aid within the reach of its abilities in accordance with its national conditions. Giving full play to its comparative advantages, China does its utmost to tailor its aid to the actual needs of recipient countries.

- Keeping pace with the times and paying attention to reform and innovation. China adapts its foreign aid to the development of both domestic and international situations, pays attention to summarizing experiences, makes innovations in the field of foreign aid, and promptly adjusts and reforms the management mechanism, so as to constantly improve its foreign aid work.

As Provost notes, the paper doesn’t do much to address the international criticism of a lack of tranparency in China’s aid efforts. Here’s the closest it provides to a breakdown: 

By the end of 2009, China had aided 161 countries and more than 30 international and regional organizations, including 123 developing countries that receive aid from China regularly. Of them, 30 are in Asia, 51 in Africa, 18 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 12 in Oceania and 12 in Eastern Europe. Asia and Africa, home to the largest poor population, have got about 80% of China’ s foreign aid.  

Which specific countries are receiving aid in what amounts and for what projects is still a little murky.