Why African leaders like Chinese aid
China provides a substantial amount of aid to African nations, but its motives are often questioned. Roland Hodler, Professor of Economics at the University of St Gallen, Switzerland, has tested these claims. Western media and Western donors are often critical to the role that China plays in Africa. China is said to use its foreign aid to curry favor with political leaders in order to get access to natural resources, and to undercut political, social and environmental conditions of Western donors.
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.