New White Paper Describes China’s Past and Future Development
The Chinese government has released a white paper outlining its work on international development cooperation, defining a mission for its youth aid agency and outlining its vision for the future.
Beijing targets both international and domestic audiences with the white paper, which comes on the heels of China which has said it has achieved its goal of eradicating rural poverty by the end of 2020.
“The framework of the document is very positive when it comes to international development cooperation,” said Hannah Muthoni Ryder, CEO of Development Reimagined, a Beijing-based consultancy.
As many countries cut aid budgets, the white paper says China is expanding its financing of foreign aid and making it more concessional. It appropriated around $ 41.8 billion between 2013 and 2018, of which around 47% was in the form of grants, 48% in the form of concessional loans and 4% in the form of interest-free loans, according to the white paper.
“Some had dismissed China’s interest in the multilateral system as being related to public relations, but here we see that they have reflected on the technical opportunities for cooperation in support of the 2030 Agenda.”
– Kristen Cordell, member of the Center for Strategic and International Studies
This compares to a total of $ 14.41 billion in foreign aid with 36% grants, 56% concessional loans and around 8% interest-free loans between 2010 and 2012, according to a precedent. white paper on China’s foreign aid published in 2014.
The “strong discourse on China’s responsibility to the rest of the world” and solidarity with the rest of the world in supporting global public goods is aimed at a national audience, Ryder said. The language around how China prioritizes the needs of its south-south partners is “globally focused and designed in such a way as to highlight the contrasts between the approach of China and other developed countries,” a- she added.
The 45-page document explains in detail how China is supporting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including through poverty reduction efforts, supporting agricultural productivity to ensure food security, improving health care systems. health and supporting education.
The document also describes the destination of funding by region – 45% of funding between 2013-2018 went to Africa, 37% to Asia and 7% to Latin America and the Caribbean – and the types of projects funded. by China, from 58 hospitals to 86 schools and 56 transport projects.
What that document does not include, which Ryder thought it might, was a more detailed breakdown by country of where Chinese aid is going.
“This is not a response to the international community for Chinese aid transparency, but gives a number of clear messages about the direction of China’s foreign aid,” she said.
Bonnie Glick, who has been fired from the US Agency for International Development, is hopeful that President-elect Joe Biden’s team embraces aspects of the current administration’s development legacy.
While the white paper contains few surprises and little new information, it is the first time that the Chinese government has articulated the link between its belt and road initiative and its development cooperation program. The BIS is repeatedly mentioned as “a global driving force for foreign aid,” she said – Beijing’s clearest articulation to date.
Development experts raised concerns about the BIS, highlighting issues related to debt sustainability and lack of adherence to international standards. The trillion dollar initiative has also come under criticism over how the government has defined it as a global public good rather than an infrastructure investment initiative between China and the countries in low and middle income, Devex reported.
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A new mandate
This is the first white paper published since China launched its own development agency and it describes the agency’s mandate, said Kristen Cordell, member of the Center for Strategic and International Studiesproject on prosperity and democracy.
The document describes the creation of the agency as a milestone and says “that it serves to better plan and coordinate international cooperation efforts and to create synergy for development”.
Partly in response to criticism that China has an ad hoc approach to foreign aid, the document also lays out a long articulation of the country’s vision for strategic assistance moving forward, Cordell said.
“Some had dismissed China’s interest in the multilateral system as being related to public relations, but here we see that they have reflected on the technical opportunities for cooperation in support of the 2030 Agenda,” he said. she declared.
There are a few areas to watch out for, experts said, including the South-South Cooperation Fund, China’s work with multilaterals and trilateral cooperation, and the establishment of a statistical data information system. .
The South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund was launched in 2015 with an initial commitment of $ 2 billion and received an additional contribution of $ 1 billion in 2017.
“It embodies China’s effort to enhance and strengthen South-South cooperation and demonstrates that as a great country, China honors its responsibilities and invites other countries to embark on the express train of its development to achieve common progress, ”notes the document.
The discourse around South-South cooperation often appeals to LMICs who prefer to be seen as partners rather than having a donor-recipient power relationship. But it can also have negative consequences, and China has been accused not to use aid to promote good governance and respect for human rights, burden countries with unsustainable debt and potentially perpetuate poverty by exploiting countries for their resources, strategic geographies or economic gains from China.
The document also describes efforts to better manage foreign aid, including improving the assessment of foreign aid projects and feasibility studies, and defining project management rules and regulations – areas in which China at come under fire in previous projects.
China will also work to “revise and improve the statistical indicator system for foreign aid and develop a modern statistical information system for foreign aid,” the document said. Exactly what that means or how it will interact with global systems is unclear and something to watch out for, experts told Devex.
These discussions of how to better manage aid could be an indication of developments, but there are few examples of untied aid in Chinese foreign aid, Ryder said.
“There are obviously challenges in the way China’s aid is structured and it is not clear whether they suggest further changes in structure or to address tied aid issues,” he said. she declared.
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