Chinese aid to Africa looks a lot like Western aid to Africa, new research finds
In "Apples and Dragon Fruits," AidData researchers from the College of William & Mary, Heidelberg University, and Harvard University refute popular misconceptions and clarify common misunderstandings about what the Chinese are up to in Africa.
October 15, 2015 – WILLIAMSBURG, VA – Chinese aid to Africa does not favor authoritarian or corrupt regimes, despite the rhetoric of Western policymakers, but African countries that align with China’s voting at the UN General Assembly do tend to receive more development assistance from Beijing.
These are just two findings from research published today by AidData, along with a massive, updated dataset tracking more than $94 billion in Chinese funding to 50 African countries over the period 2000-2013.
In Apples and Dragon Fruits: The Determinants of Aid and Other Forms of State Financing from China to Africa, AidData researchers from the College of William & Mary, Heidelberg University, and Harvard University refute popular misconceptions and clarify common misunderstandings about what the Chinese are up to in Africa.
The main source of confusion, they find, is a failure to differentiate between aid in the strictest sense (“official development assistance” -- ODA) and more commercial forms of state financing. Beijing has made the problem worse; by disclosing little reliable information about its overseas development activities, it has fueled speculation and made it difficult to confront false and exaggerated claims with evidence.
Among other findings, the authors report that:
- When African states consistently vote with China in the UN General Assembly, or align their voting with China’s voting over time, they tend to receive more ODA from Beijing.
- Contrary to a commonly held belief by Western policymakers, China does not privilege authoritarian regimes -- or so-called “rogue states” -- in its allocation of ODA.
- China does not seem to take commercial self-interest or natural resource acquisition considerations into account when it allocates ODA. In fact, Chinese ODA flows to Africa are strongly oriented towards poorer countries, suggesting that Beijing considers humanitarian needs when making allocation decisions.
- Despite the popular perception that “Chinese aid” is funnelled to corrupt and natural resource-rich countries, Chinese ODA does not favor countries that are rich in natural resources and countries with higher levels of corruption. It is less concessional – and more commercially-oriented – forms of Chinese state financing (e.g. so-called “other official flows,” or OOF) that flow disproportionately to such countries.
- China’s aid giving motivations actually bear a striking -- and surprising -- resemblance to those of Western donors.
To download “Apples and Dragon Fruits: The Determinants of Aid and Other Forms of State Financing from China to Africa,” visit aiddata.org/working-papers. AidData worked with Foreign Affairs to create this visualization, also released today: Aid and Other Financing to Africa from China.
The analysis in Apples and Dragon Fruits was made possible through a large and ongoing open-source data collection and triangulation initiative at AidData (http://aiddata.org/) that to date has helped identify more than 2,300 Chinese development projects in Africa (via china.aiddata.org). The updated (1.2) version of AidData’s Chinese Official Finance to Africa dataset -- also released today -- reflects and includes:
- Data drawn from more than 6,000 sources, including academic case studies, NGO reports, individual Chinese ministry press releases, diplomatic cables, implementing agency websites, and media reports.
- The elimination of some data gaps, including health aid information that was corrected based on feedback from Chinese government officials and university researchers.
- The introduction of “Health of Record” scores that help external users distinguish between project records that are more reliable and project records that require further validation.
More information on AidData’s data collection and verification methods and processes can be found here: Tracking Underreported Financial Flows methodology.
In early 2016, AidData plans to release a global version of its dataset, extending coverage beyond Africa to other regions, including Asia and Latin America.
The views expressed here are those of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the institutions to which the authors belong.