6 Surprising facts about Chinese aid to Africa
It's undeniable. China has a huge presence in Africa. Many Africans can point out Chinese-funded buildings, roads and mines, and it's not uncommon to see more than a few Chinese faces around construction projects and efforts across the development sector. As the country moves toward the up and up both economically and as a world superpower, so will its aid to the continent.
Chinese “aid” is a lightning rod for criticism. Policy-makers, journalists, and public intellectuals claim that Beijing uses its largesse to cement alliances with political leaders, secure access to natural resources, and create exclusive commercial opportunities for Chinese firms—all at the expense of citizens living in developing countries. We argue that much of the controversy about Chinese “aid” stems from a failure to distinguish between China's Official Development Assistance (ODA) and more commercially oriented sources and types of state financing. Using a new database on China's official financing commitments to Africa from 2000 to 2013, we find that the allocation of Chinese ODA is driven primarily by foreign policy considerations, while economic interests better explain the distribution of less concessional flows. These results highlight the need for better measures of an increasingly diverse set of non-Western financial activities.