NGOs, climate aid, and China's change of heart

Historically, China has given little of its aid budget to climate change adaptation projects. Information collected by AidData, a website that tracks global aid and development flows, shows that China has provided direct assistance for only two projects related to the environment and climate change since 2000. This is out of more than 2,100 official finance projects funded by Chinese aid in developing countries, worth over $US 70bn.




Chinese “aid” is a lightning rod for criticism. Policy-makers, journalists, and public intellectuals claim that Beijing uses its largesse to cement alliances with political leaders, secure access to natural resources, and create exclusive commercial opportunities for Chinese firms—all at the expense of citizens living in developing countries. We argue that much of the controversy about Chinese “aid” stems from a failure to distinguish between China's Official Development Assistance (ODA) and more commercially oriented sources and types of state financing. Using a new database on China's official financing commitments to Africa from 2000 to 2013, we find that the allocation of Chinese ODA is driven primarily by foreign policy considerations, while economic interests better explain the distribution of less concessional flows. These results highlight the need for better measures of an increasingly diverse set of non-Western financial activities.

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