Experts call for a system to assess, supervise foreign aid

By Yang Jingjie Source:Global Times Published: 2014-7-11 1:03:01

Experts call for a system to assess, supervise assistance


Experts have called for a revamp of the foreign aid system to supervise the use of the money and assess its effects after the State Council released a white paper on Thursday showing the country spent more than $14 billion in no-strings-attached foreign aid in the 2010-12 period.

According to the white paper, the scale of China's foreign assistance continued to expand in 2010-12, during which 89.34 billion yuan ($14.4 billion) was channeled to 121 countries in grants, interest-free loans and concessional loans.

This is the second such white paper on China's foreign aid. In 2010, the first-ever white paper on foreign assistance revealed that China gave 256.3 billion yuan in foreign aid from 1950-2009.

While predicting China's foreign aid budget will further expand in accordance with  its growing economy and international responsibilities, Pang Zhongying, a professor for international relations studies at the Renmin University of China, said that giving aid with no strings attached has become a double-edged sword.

"Given the current policy, China is not able to supervise the use of the money and assess its effects," he told the Global Times Thursday. "The aid may not finally flow to the people in need, but may breed corruption or even be used to purchase arms."

The white paper Thursday stressed that, "When providing foreign assistance, China adheres to the principles of not imposing any political conditions, not interfering in the internal affairs of the recipient countries and fully respecting their right to independently choose their own paths and models of development."

Pang said he believes adjustments to the foreign aid system are necessary to better serve China's strategic interests.

In a breakdown of China's foreign aid in 2010-12, the assistance went to 30 countries in Asia, 51 in Africa, nine in Oceania, 19 in Latin America and the Caribbean and 12 in Europe.

The white paper further detailed how its assistance aided other developing countries in areas like disaster management, infrastructure construction, education, vaccination and medical treatment.

China also helped those countries in their capacity building, ranging from agricultural development and combating climate change to nurturing talent.

Aid was also provided to tackle humanitarian crises in war-torn Libya and Syria.

In recent years, some citizens have expressed discontent over the perceived generosity of China's foreign aid budget. They argue that China should not spend such a large amount overseas while significant numbers of its own people are still struggling to shake off poverty.

Such sentiment came to a peak at the end of 2011, when China announced the donation of 23 school buses to Macedonia. This followed a fatal road accident in Northwest China, in which an overloaded minivan used as a school bus crashed, killing 19 children.

Tang Chunfeng, a research fellow with a think tank under the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), who worked in foreign aid during the 1990s, said it is unreasonable for the public to oppose the government in the matter of foreign aid.

"The authorities provided aid due to the urgency of situation and sometimes out of humanitarian concerns. And sometimes, we gave aid due to friendly ties with those countries," he said.

Tang also acknowledged that sometimes the aid is made for strategic calculation, as some developing nations play a significant role in international politics.

In 1971, China's seat in the UN was reinstated due to the support of African countries, where Beijing had helped build infrastructure.

China's no-strings-attached aid policy has drawn criticism and suspicion in the West, which argues that the Chinese aid may help sustain regimes they deem "undemocratic" and which will offset their efforts to foster change in those countries.

Pang said that although China should not follow the West, which sets extensive conditions for aid, it is in Beijing's interest to attach appropriate conditions.

The expert said that people in both the political and academic circles have called for an adjustment of the foreign aid system, and authorities are mulling the establishment of an independent agency for foreign aid affairs, which is now handled by MOFCOM.

MOFCOM has allocated 21.1 billion yuan for foreign aid in 2014.

China's aid budget is still dwarfed by those of developed countries.

The US remained the world's largest bilateral donor, providing approximately $48.4 billion in aid during fiscal year 2012.

Newspaper headline: Overseas aid budget expands

Posted in: Diplomacy

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