Sunday, December 13, 2009

China's foreign aid underwhelms

China’s Assistance and Government-Sponsored Investment Activities in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia by Thomas Lum, Specialist in Asian Affairs , November 25, 2009, 19 pgs.

This report is largely based upon research conducted in 2007-2008 by graduate students at the New York University Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service under the supervision of Wagner School faculty and CRS specialists. The students’ findings, while not comprehensive, suggest a dramatic increase in PRC economic assistance and state-sponsored investment from 2002 through 2007. The numbers provided in this report are not meant to be interpreted as reliable foreign aid totals. Furthermore, some PRC loans or aid pledges may not have been fulfilled and some aid pledges that include multiple projects or that span several years may have been counted more than once.

According to the Wagner School research, during the 2002-2007 period, Africa received the greatest amount of loans and other economic assistance, followed by Latin America and Southeast Asia. The findings suggest that China’s aid activities in Africa and Latin America serve the PRC’s immediate economic interests, while those in Southeast Asia relate to longer term diplomatic or strategic objectives. In Africa and Southeast Asia, PRC-sponsored infrastructure and public works projects constitute the most common form of activity, while in Latin America, where some countries are more developed, Chinese natural resource development projects are more prominent.

China is fast becoming a top trading partner with Africa and Southeast Asia, and it is second to the United States as a market for Latin American commodities and goods. Although the PRC’s economic assistance activities are a highly visible reminder of China’s growing diplomatic and economic influence, or “soft power,” the European Union, the United States, and Japan continue to dominate foreign investment in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia.

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