Rubbery Numbers for Chinese Aid to Africa
Today, a new paper and media-based dataset on Chinese aid/finance was released by the AidData project, in an event at the Center for Global Development. AidData collected these numbers over the past 18 months, from media reports. According to AidData, the Chinese have committed $75 billion in official development finance to Africa, 2000 to 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.