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China’s Foreign Aid Policy Gets a Big Upgrade

China is upgrading the role of foreign aid and international development in its policymaking according to a new white paper published by the country’s immensely powerful cabinet, known as the State Council.

The State Council Information Office released the document on Sunday. It details major shifts in how China approaches its international development assistance initiatives that, to date, have been somewhat disjointed.

Zhang Hong, a doctoral candidate and China foreign aid scholar at George Mason University in the United States, described the white paper as “a landmark document.” 

“It replaces the two White Papers on China’s Foreign Aid, and adopts the new term of “International Development Cooperation,” said Zhang in an analysis published as a ten-part Twitter thread. “Not just a semantic change reflecting the name of the new agency, but also based on a whole set of theorizing China developed in recent year,” she added.

Key Highlights From Zhang Hong’s Analysis of China’s New White Paper on Internatioanl Development Cooperation

  • LOST IN TRANSLATION: “Most interestingly the idea of “正确的义利观” (roughly translated as “the correct philosophy on ‘yi’–public good, and ‘li’–interest), which is lost in the English version. The Chinese version says “重视和照顾其他 explicitly admitting that there’s tension between China’s self-interest in providing assistance and the public good such assistance is supposed to serve–and vowing to take “public good” over “interest”. (This sentence is not reflected in the English version.)” (@STELLAHONGZHANG)
  • AID AND BRI: “Other noticeable (but not surprising) points include the goal of development cooperation to serve the BRI, which suggests that foreign aid and other development cooperation will be coordinated with the overall BRI agenda, and there will be more top-down control rather than allowing companies to drive the aid and loan allocation based on their commercial interests.” (@STELLAHONGZHANG)

Read the full analysis on Zhang Hong’s Twitter page.

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