Donor Tracker Insights – A New Era? Trends in China’s Financing for International Development Cooperation

By May 14, 2021 Publications

Since 1950, China has been leveraging its strong history of domestic achievements in development to support other ‘developing’ countries through its South-South cooperation and has grown into a preeminent provider of financing for global development. This ‘Insight’ aims to contextualize and centralize existing sources of information to provide a broad overview of a) how China frames its own role in international development, b) its financing for development cooperation, and c) its strategic priorities. It finds:

  • China does not consider itself a ‘donor’ but rather a “developing country” and a provider of “South-South cooperation”.
  • Between 2013 and 2018, China’s annual average spending on foreign assistance reached approximately US$7.0 billion, growing by almost 50% compared to 2010-2012.
  • 45% of China’s foreign assistance goes to African countries, followed by Asia (37%) and Latin America (7%)
  • China’s ‘ODA-like’ flows in 2019 are estimated at US$5.9 billion, which would make China the sixth largest provider of ODA.
  • Although bilateral flows remain predominant, multilateral commitments an increasingly important component of China’s development cooperation, particularly as part of its global response to COVID-19.
  • China’s longstanding sectoral priorities include agriculture, infrastructure, and trade, but governance, climate, health, and humanitarian assistance are gaining increased attention.
  • Transparency around Chinese development finance remains a challenge despite apparent efforts on the government’s part to improve communication and accountability.
  • China’s importance as a global development actor will continue to grow, and its institutional capacities and approaches will develop in parallel.

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