Chinese foreign aid may be considered in this article as both governmental (official) and private development aid and humanitarian aid originating from the People’s Republic of China.

Chinese official aid - unlike most major nation-state sources of aid - is not regulated and measured under the OECD's protocols for official development assistance (ODA). According to OECD estimates, 2020 official development assistance from China increased to US$4.8 billion.[1] In this respect, the program is similar in monetary size to those of Norway and Canada. China, however, provides a larger amount of development finance in the form of less-concessional loans.[2] The Chinese government represents its aid as characterised by a framework of South-South cooperation and "not interfering in the internal affairs of the recipient countries".[3]


Following the establishment in 1949 of the People's Republic of China under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), China began providing aid to other countries in support of socialist and anti-imperialist causes.[4] An early instance was the donation of CHF 20 million to Egypt 1956 during the Suez Crisis.[4] When China began its foreign aid program, it was the only poor country that was supplying outbound foreign aid, even providing assistance to countries that had a higher GDP per capita than China did.[5]

From 1970 and 1975, China helped finance and build the TAZARA Railway in East Africa, which cost about $500m, and as of 2012 was considered to be China's largest-ever single-item aid project.[6] In 1974 (near the end of Mao Zedong's period as China's leader), aid reached the remarkably high proportion of 2% of gross national product. The proportion declined greatly thereafter although the absolute quantity of aid has risen with China's growing prosperity. Meanwhile, the motivation of aid became more pragmatic and less about promoting a grand ideology.[4]

The China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) was created in 2018 to help streamline the process of China's foreign aid, in which the ministries of commerce and foreign affairs and the State Council are also involved.[7]

Comparison with ODA

Chinese aid, unlike the aid provided by most developed countries, is not governed by the categories of the OECD's Development Assistance Committee, and is not counted in international statistics as Official Development Assistance (ODA).[7] Rather than being a "donor", China sees itself as working within a framework of South-South cooperation:[3]

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 choosing their own paths and models of development. The basic principles China upholds in providing foreign assistance are mutual respect, equality, keeping promise, mutual benefits and win-win.

— White Paper: China's Foreign Aid (2014)

The founding declaration of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) makes explicit China's critique of the dominant global mode of foreign aid, which in the Chinese view results in the mistreatment of developing countries:[8]

Each country has the right to choose, in its course of development, its own social system, development model and way of life in light of its national conditions. . . . Moreover, the politicization of human rights conditionalities on economic assistance should be vigorously opposed to as they constitute a violation of human rights.

As Professor Dawn C. Murphy summarizes, “From China’s perspective, it is not merely offering an alternative model of foreign aid; it is directly critiquing the current system and the mistreatment of developing countries in that system.”[9]The only political commitment China requires from aid recipients is that they accept the One China principle; China does not otherwise require concessions on issues of governance.[9]

China’s approach to financial aid has not changed over time, but the scope of its aid has grown as its own economic development needs have increased.[9]

As of 2017, China does not provide comprehensive data on its foreign aid.[10] The OECD has estimated that the quantity of China's ODA-like aid in 2018 was $4.4 billion.[11] If counted as ODA, this would have placed China tenth in the list of donor states that year, between Norway and Canada, and far behind the United States which provided $34 billion. However, China provides a much higher volume of development financing that would not qualify as ODA because it lacks a sufficient concessional element and/or is linked to commercial transactions.[10][2] A 2017 study for AidData found that China's ODA-like aid was effective at producing economic growth in recipient countries.[10]

Administration and budget

The Department of Foreign Aid of the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) is responsible for administrating the foreign aid program.[12] It does so in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.[12] The portfolio of the Department of Foreign Aid includes grants, zero-interest loans, the youth volunteer program, and technical assistance.[12] The grants and interest free loans originate from the national budget.[12][13] The concessional loan program originates from the Export Import Bank of China but is managed under the direction of the Department of Foreign Aid.[12] In addition, the Department of Foreign Aid provides subsidies from the national budget covers the concessional component of loans.[12]

Chinese foreign aid is thought to be unpopular domestically due to the common belief that the largesse is required more urgently at home.[14] Due to the secrecy of China's aid programme details (of how much is given, to whom and for what) are difficult to ascertain.[14]

A RAND published study on "China's Foreign Aid and Government Sponsored Investment" estimates the amount of both traditional aid and much more broadly defined government sponsored investment that was pledged by China in 2011 was 189.3 billion US dollars.[13]

According to a 2017 study, described as “The most detailed study so far of Chinese aid,” by AidData, between 2000 and 2014 China gave about $75 billion, and lent about $275 billion — compared to $424 billion given by America during the same period.[14] A fifth of this Chinese aid, $75 billion, was in the form of grants (about equivalent to Britain's), while the rest was concessional lending at below-market interest rates.[14]

Forms of aid and recipients

Official sources divide aid into three categories: grants, interest free loans, and concessional loans.[13] Deborah Brautigam identifies in her book The Dragon's Gift nine types of aid from China including "medical teams, training and scholarships, humanitarian aid, youth volunteers, debt relief, budget support, turn-key or ‘complete plant’ projects [infrastructure, factories], aid-in-kind and technical assistance."[15]

Grants or non-interest loans have funded 2,025 complete infrastructure project, from the start of aid efforts up to 2009, in the categories of farming, water distribution, conference buildings, education facilities, power supply, transport, industrial facilities, and other projects.[16] Perhaps the famous type of project is a football stadium, which has been referred to as stadium diplomacy.[17] A similar type of project that receives attention is the construction of theatres and opera houses.[18]

There is an African focus with about 45% of aid going to African countries in 2009.[19] A report by AidData, a research lab at the College of William & Mary, found that as of 2014 the majority of Chinese official development assistance went to Africa.[20] The greatest recipients of Chinese aid in sub-Saharan Africa are, in descending order, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Tanzania, Ghana, Mozambique, and Republic of Congo.[21]

From the 1970s up to 2022 China has reportedly implemented more than 100 aid projects in Pacific Island countries.[22]

In August 2022, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China announced that it would forgive 23 interest-free loans that matured at the end of 2021 to 17 unspecified African countries.[23]

See also


  1. ^ "China | Development Co-operation Profiles – Other official providers | OECD iLibrary".
  2. ^ a b "China's Global Development Footprint". AidData. Archived from the original on 2019-11-12. Retrieved 2021-02-09.
  3. ^ a b "China's Foreign Aid (2014)". The State Council, The People's Republic of China. Archived from the original on 2020-01-05. Retrieved 2021-02-09.
  4. ^ a b c Li, Xiaoyun. "China's Foreign Aid and Aid to Africa" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2020-03-20. Retrieved 2021-02-08.
  5. ^ Murphy, Dawn C. (2022). China's rise in the Global South : the Middle East, Africa, and Beijing's alternative world order. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. p. 168. ISBN 978-1-5036-3060-4. OCLC 1249712936.
  6. ^ Sued, Hilal K. (2012-04-11). "TAZARA: How the great Uhuru Railway was built". Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the United Republic of Tanzania. Archived from the original on 2014-09-01. Retrieved 2021-02-09.
  7. ^ a b Lynch, Leah; Andersen, Sharon; Zhu, Tianyu (2020-07-09). "China's Foreign Aid: A Primer for Recipient Countries, Donors, and Aid Providers". Center for Global Development. Archived from the original on 2020-08-04. Retrieved 2021-02-09.
  8. ^ Murphy, Dawn C. (2022). China's rise in the Global South : the Middle East, Africa, and Beijing's alternative world order. Stanford, California. pp. 82–83. ISBN 978-1-5036-3060-4. OCLC 1249712936.
  9. ^ a b c Murphy, Dawn C. (2022). China's rise in the Global South : the Middle East, Africa, and Beijing's alternative world order. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. p. 172. ISBN 978-1-5036-3060-4. OCLC 1249712936.
  10. ^ a b c Dreher, Axel; et al. (October 2017). "Aid, China, and Growth: Evidence from a New Global Development Finance Dataset" (PDF). Aiddata. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-10-31. Retrieved 2021-02-09.
  11. ^ "Other official providers not reporting to the OECD". OECD. Archived from the original on 2021-02-10. Retrieved 2021-01-29.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Bräutigam, Deborah (March 2010). "China, Africa and the International Aid Architecture". Africa Development Bank.
  13. ^ a b c China's Foreign Aid and Government-Sponsored Investment Activities (PDF). RAND. 2013.
  14. ^ a b c d "Despite its reputation, Chinese aid is quite effective". The Economist. 12 October 2017.
  15. ^ "Analysis: Behind China's aid structure". IRIN. September 17, 2013.
  16. ^ "China's Foreign Aid". Xinhua. 2011-04-21. Archived from the original on May 2, 2011.
  17. ^ Foreign Aid: Diplomacy, Development, and Domestic Politics. The University of Chicago Press. 2007. p. 32.
  18. ^ "An Opera House for Algeria". COMMANDOpera. April 21, 2010.
  19. ^ "China Gives Almost Half of Foreign Aid to African Countries". Bloomberg. April 21, 2011.
  20. ^ Murphy, Tom (2017-10-31). "Find Out Some (But Not All) The Secrets Of China's Foreign Aid". NPR. Retrieved 2022-08-06.
  21. ^ Murphy, Dawn C. (2022). China's rise in the Global South : the Middle East, Africa, and Beijing's alternative world order. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. p. 170. ISBN 978-1-5036-3060-4. OCLC 1249712936.
  22. ^ "Fact Sheet: Cooperation Between China and Pacific Island Countries".
  23. ^ Backhouse, Andrew (2022-08-22). "China forgives debt for 17 African nations amid accusations of debt trap diplomacy". Retrieved 2022-08-22.