Government says emphasis will be on projects in Silk Road countries.
China is planning a considerable expansion of its foreign aid programs with a particular focus on infrastructure projects in countries along the land and maritime Silk Road trading routes, government officials said on Dec 8.
The country is planning to initiate a number of strategically important aid projects to help improve transportation, energy and telecommunications in those countries, according to the Ministry of Commerce, which is responsible for administrating the country’s foreign aid programs.
Projects involving construction and improvement of roads, railways, ports and airports are already being implemented in countries including Laos, Myanmar, Nepal and in Central Asia, Yu Zirong, deputy director-general of the foreign aid department at the ministry, told a news conference in Beijing.
“China’s growing future foreign aid program will be tilted toward neighboring countries and those in the Silk Road region,” Yu said.
The planned shift in direction for Chinese foreign aid is a direct result of President Xi Jinping’s proposed national strategy to revive the centuries-old trading routes connecting Asia and Europe, experts said.
The newly created 40 billion yuan ($6.5 billion) Silk Road fund and the Beijing-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank are expected to facilitate China’s foreign aid programs in the future, they said.
“Such a shift indicates that China will be more inclined to offer assistance to Asia and neighboring countries,” said Wang Luo, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.
“It does not mean that the percentage of China’s foreign aid to Africa will drop. It just means that Asia and countries along the Silk Road will get a greater share as China grows its aid spending,” she said.
Africa has been the largest recipient of China’s foreign aid with more than half of spending directed at the continent between 2010 and 2012, according to a policy paper issued in June.
China spent 89.34 billion yuan on foreign aid through grants, interest-free loans and concessional loans during that period, the paper said.
China is expected to roll out a mid-to long-term plan for foreign aid next year, and will also finish and publish foreign aid guidelines on a country-by-country basis by the end of this year, according to the ministry.
Last month, the ministry issued its first set of foreign aid regulations, marking a major step in its reform of the system which will make its foreign aid programs more transparent.
The document better regulates budget management and fund allocation of foreign aid programs, improves bidding procedures for enterprises, and enhances internal checking and supervision to ensure fairness and prevent corruption.
It also introduces a partnership model under which recipient countries can better cooperate with China on carrying out their own projects under Chinese supervision.
Previously, most projects were solely built and completed by China.
At the news conference on Dec 8, Assistant Minister of Commerce Zhang Xiangchen emphasized that China’s foreign aid programs adhere to the principles of not interfering in the internal affairs of recipient countries and are committed to alleviating poverty and promoting economic growth.
China officially revealed the total value of its previous foreign aid for the first time in 2011－256.2 billion yuan over the past six decades. More than 70 percent of that assistance was spent on construction of infrastructure and social welfare facilities.