Tracking China's development footprint

Low- and middle-income countries have more choice in their development partners than ever before. Increasingly, non-Western governments are becoming prominent financiers of development in other countries. However, many of these new actors have opted out of the global development finance reporting regime. While we know that countries like Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, and Venezuela collectively provide tens of billions of dollars of overseas development finance each year, we don’t know very much about where this money is going.

Over the last five years, AidData has developed and refined a new methodology for Tracking Underreported Financial Flows (TUFF) to close this evidence gap. Using the TUFF methodology, AidData systematically collects and triangulates open-source information about official financial flows from emerging donors like China that do not publish project-level data.

Our most recent application of the TUFF methodology is AidData's Global Chinese Official Finance Dataset, Version 1.0, which tracks over $350 billion in Chinese official finance—which includes foreign aid and other forms of state financing—from China to five major regions of the world between 2000 and 2014. The dataset captures 4,300 projects in 140 countries and territories. We have also released a first-of-its-kind geolocated version of the data, AidData's Geocoded Global Chinese Official Finance Dataset, Version 1.1.1, that captures 6,190 locations of 3,485 Chinese development projects worth USD $273.6 billion that were implemented in 138 countries between 2000 and 2014.

Our TUFF methodology has been stress-tested, refined, codified, and subjected to scientific peer-review, resulting in dozens of working papers and journal publications. The use of TUFF-derived data on Chinese development spending has also resulted in more than 250 stories in elite and mass media outlets, including articles in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The Financial Times, the South China Morning Post, Les Echoes, and Radio France Internationale. CNN, NPR, BBC, and the Associated Press.

This project has benefited from the generous support of Humanity United, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER).