China’s engagement in international development cooperation: the state of the debate

China’s engagement in international development cooperation: the state of the debate

This Evidence report aims to investigate the recent evolution of China’s discourse on development and aid. More precisely, how do China’s policymakers and influential scholars understand and debate China’s role in the field of international development aid, specifically in the context of China as a ‘rising power’?

However, to reflect upon Chinese discourse in this manner is contrary to the Chinese perspective itself, where development and aid are rarely referred to in relation to each other. Instead, in the Chinese mind-set, to this day, national development and foreign aid seem to be two unrelated issues.

It is exactly this point that shapes China’s attitude toward aid and creates divergence between China and the West on international development cooperation. Meanwhile, when dealing with China’s current policydebate on foreign aid, one primary issue is that the debate is essentially fostered by the West.

Development cooperation between China and the West is definitely not a bilateral issue, and the willingness of the recipient countries has to be considered. In fact, whether the trilateral cooperation between China, the West and the recipient countries is possible cannot, and should not, be decided by China but by the recipient countries themselves. Because China, Africa and the West have differences in principle on aid, potential development cooperation should start from some concrete projects, with which all three actors feel satisfied. In sum, it seems all three actors of this story are currently experiencing an evolution. The West is facing China’s rise, China is facing the West’s request for international development cooperation and Africa is facing more and more new donors. The potential of this new context is vast. For all involved, communication and dialogue among the three sets of actors is the best opportunity for positive and effective change.

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