What are the effects of Chinese aid on the legitimacy of African states? China has dramatically increased the scope of its aid to Africa in recent years, igniting much debate among scholars and policymakers, some of whom characterize China as a “rogue donor” that is rupturing the social contract between citizens and recipient states. We test this proposition by combining within-country analysis of original surveys, survey experiments, and behavioral games in Liberia with cross-country analysis of AidData and Afrobarometer data on 38 African countries. We find little evidence indicating that exposure to Chinese aid has diminished Africans’ perceptions of government or reduced tax compliance or morale, both important indicators of state legitimacy. Our results are consistent across settings, levels of analysis, and measurement and identification strategies, belying the conventional wisdom that China’s increasing economic engagement imperils good governance or estranges citizens from recipient African states.
Funding: This research is funded by the Institute of International Education (IIE), under the Democracy Fellows and Grants Program (AID-OAA-A-12-00039), funded by USAID’s Center of Excellence in Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance (DRG Center).