Chinese foreign aid in Africa
A new opera house in Algeria. Traffic lights in Liberia's capital city. A malaria prevention centre in Mozambique. These are some of the aid programs China has financed in recent years in Africa. A new study and database released by the Center for Global Development in Washington and AidData, a research group at William and Mary College, has turned up details on 1,673 Chinese development projects worth $75 billion in 50 African countries between 2000 and 2011.
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.