China’s new aid White Paper and its surprisingly small aid program

This week China released their latest (and long-awaited) Foreign Aid White Paper, following on from their first Aid White Paper in 2011. Instead of being a White Paper in the conventional Australian sense, setting the strategic vision and future direction of the program, it is rather an account of Chinese aid from 2010 to 2012. The document provides statistics showing the geographic and sectoral distribution of their aid program as well as its total volume over the three year period. Philippa Brant provides some good analysis here.

So how much aid does China give? The White Paper says US$ 14.4 billion over three years. Dividing 14.4 by 3 gives $4.8 billion. This would rank China 10th overall in the world of OECD donors in 2012, just after Australia. So China is clearly a large donor.

But the figures are surprisingly low. China’s aid back in 2008 was estimated at $4.5 billion (see this 2011 presentation by Sean Burges.) A People’s Daily article from last year suggested that China’s aid was $6.4 billion.  And recent research [pdf] from the JICA research institute, as reported by Philippa Brant here, puts China’s aid in 2013 at $7.1 billion, which would push it up to 6th.

China aid

Has China put the brakes on its aid program? Or are different definitions to blame?

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Jonathan Pryke

Jonathan Pryke worked at the Development Policy Centre from 2011, and left in mid-2015 to join the Lowy Institute, where he is now Director of the Pacific Islands Program. He has a Master of Public Policy/Master of Diplomacy from Crawford School of Public Policy and the College of Diplomacy, ANU.

Stephen Howes

Stephen Howes is Director of the Development Policy Centre and Professor of Economics at the Crawford School of Public Policy, at The Australian National University.

1 Comment

  • I think a key question here is what does this “mean” in terms of Chinese aid investments? Why the drop in aid expenditure? Have the Chinese made such an impact where they’ve formerly invested their aid support and are now allowing other “development elements” to “takeover” where they’ve reduced aid spend? Strategically what does this mean for China as well as the global donor community?

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