China says new agency will improve foreign aid coordination

Reuters

China plans to set up an international development cooperation agency, according to a parliament document released Tuesday, to better coordinate its foreign aid program.

The new agency will be responsible for forming policies on foreign aid, as well as granting aid and overseeing its implementation, according to the document.

“The move is to give full play to foreign aid as a key means of major-country diplomacy, enhance strategic planning and coordination of foreign aid, and better serve the country’s overall diplomatic layout and the Belt and Road Initiative,” the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The Belt and Road initiative refers to President Xi Jinping’s landmark scheme to build a new Silk Road, connecting China to Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond.

The new agency will be formed as part of a broad reshuffle of government departments that China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament will formally approve Saturday.

A new state immigration administration agency responsible for border control, repatriating illegal immigrants and managing foreigners and refugees would also be set up under China’s Ministry of Public Security, Xinhua reported.

China has only occasionally provided details of its foreign aid program in recent years.

The last time it did, in a policy paper released in 2014, it said more than half of China’s foreign aid of more than $14 billion between 2010 and 2012 went to Africa, underscoring Beijing’s interest in the resource-rich continent to fuel its economy.

It provided no breakdown of aid recipients or any yearly figures. In 2011, China put its total foreign aid over the past six decades at 256.29 billion yuan ($40.51 billion).

An analysis by AidData, a research lab at William Mary University in the U.S. state of Virginia, found that official Chinese development assistance from 2000 to 2014 totaled $81 billion, with Cuba receiving the most aid.

Overseas aid provided by the United States over the same period was $366 billion, AidData said.

Much of China’s overseas finance is made in the form of loans or export credits, which allow infrastructure-for-resource deals.

This approach gives China an advantage over the United States in Africa, the official China Daily said Tuesday in an editorial on U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to the continent.

“China has been working for years to try to meet Africa’s needs, helping African countries build railways, bridges and ports,” the newspaper said.

“That is why most African countries have sought to forge a partnership with China,” it said.

Some Chinese projects have attracted attention for China’s support of governments with poor human rights records and lack of transparency, such as Zimbabwe, Sudan and Angola.

China will host a once-every-three-years summit with African leaders in Beijing in September.