China is catching up to the United States as a source of official grants and loans to developing countries, a multinational group of researchers reported on Wednesday. In between 2000-2014, China funded over 4,300 projects in 140 countries to the tune of $354 billion, the report said. However, the self-serving economic interests and lack of transparency about the usage of funds is raising questions.
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US President Donald Trump, after holding the office, has called for major cuts in foreign aid under his America First policy, raising alarm among philanthropists and sparking warnings it could be a “death sentence” for some countries. As the US pulls back, China is poised to replace it as the primary donor for much of the developing world, a reports suggests. Big concerns remain about the lack of transparency in how Chinese money is spent and what effect its assistance has on recipient countries.
The research group at AidData, a lab at College of Willian & Mary in Virginia, is the most extensive effort yet to measure the aid flow by China. The result of research has spurred concerns about Beijing’s intentions. According to the AidData, China gave or lent $354.4 billion in 15 years ending in 2014 in Africa, Asia and elsewhere, compared with $394.6 billion for the US. Much of this assistance occurs within an “informational black hole”, thus it raise concerns about how the aid is being used, and what sort of influence is being created by China on the recipient countries.
Attention to the Chinese financing has increased as Beijing promotes its “Belt and Road Initiative”, a multi-billion dollar project to expand the trade links with Asia, Africa and Middle East by building ports, roads and other facilities. Although the donation of aid is no big thing, China’s policy to keep the spending of aid a secret is raising many questions.