China’s Aid Statistics

My colleague here at Wesleyan, Masami Imai, recently pointed me to a new China White Paper (news video, full text). This is an important document for a number of reasons. First, the actual amount of Chinese foreign aid has been difficult to discern for researchers. This is due to a number of reasons, including: variations in definitions for what should count as foreign aid (in the West, we use a standard definition that was developed by the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee), lack of centralized aid provision and reporting in China (they have no equivalent to USAID, for instance), and uncertainty about whether some aid is provided without any report. The World Bank once reported that China aid to Africa between 1960 and 2006 was $44 billion (see Brautigam’s response). Given new data this was clearly an overestimate. However, one of the more amusing misrepresentations of China’s aid to Africa is a Congressional Resource Service report. As Deborah Brautigam notes, that report was WAY off the mark. It suggested that China’s aid to Africa in 2007 was $25 billion. Brautigam estimated that it really was 5% of that. According to their new White Paper it must be low indeed. The White Paper states that TOTAL foreign aid to the whole world since 1950 is just under $40 billion.

What is clear from the new White Paper, however, is that Africa is the major recipient of Chinese foreign aid:

Geographical Discribution of China's Foreign Aid, 2009

I definitely recommend looking for Brautigam’s analysis of the White Paper. I’m sure it will come soon.