China's Contribution to International Development Cooperation

ZHANG Yunfei 2019-09-17 15:48:19   
Recent years witness rising global development assistance. Developing countries have emerged as impressive forces with profound influence in international development cooperation and China has become one of the major players in this field. 

I. Transformation of China's Foreign Assistance
In 1950 China began to provide material assistance to DPRK and Vietnam, thus opening the prelude of New China's foreign aid. After the Bandung Asia-Africa Conference in 1955, China gradually expanded its foreign aid to other developing countries. In 1964 the Chinese government announced the well-known Eight Principles of Foreign Economic and Technical Assistance, featuring equality, mutual benefit and no strings attached. After the resumption of its legitimate seat in the United Nations in 1971, China established economic and technical cooperation with more developing countries and a number of major infrastructure projects such as the Tanzania-Zambia Railway were built. With the beginning of reform and opening up in 1978, China’s economic cooperation with other developing countries evolved from simple assistance to various forms of mutually beneficial cooperation.

In recent years, China has successively launched a series of pragmatic initiatives by rolling out 10 major China-Africa cooperation plans, establishing South-South Cooperation and Development Institute, setting up South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund and the China-United Nations Peace and Development Fund, and initiating the BRICS Economic and Technological Cooperation and Exchange Program and etc., to contribute Chinese wisdom to such issues as poverty alleviation, disease prevention and control, climate change, capacity-building and humanitarian assistance.

In the past 7 decades, China has provided more than 400 billion Chinese yuan (RMB) of assistance to more than 160 countries and international organizations, trained more than 12 million people of different walks from developing countries, and implemented more than 5,000 foreign aid projects. In recent years, with the launching of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as well as the founding of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and New Development Bank (NDB), and especially with the establishment of the China International Development Cooperation Agency in April 2018, China's international development cooperation has become more and more institutional and influential. Over 70 years, China’s foreign aid has gradually transformed from relatively simple forms of capitals, materials and human support to diversified forms of assistance. 

II. The Belt and Road Initiative and the UN 2030 Agenda
Since its inception 6 years ago, the BRI has come a long way from a blueprint to reality and from a Chinese proposal to its inclusion in the UN document, and has received strong endorsement and wide support of the international community. By May this year, 131 countries and 30 international organizations have signed cooperation documents with China on the BRI.

In the spirit of partnership featuring extensive consultation, joint efforts and shared benefits, the BRI has contributed to common development in participating countries and regions through bilateral, trilateral and multilateral cooperation. The BRI fits perfectly well with the UN 2030 Agenda and the Agenda 2063 of the African Union, delivering a strong boost to South-South cooperation. At the same time, the BRI has shown a strong pulling effect globally, which has helped more developing countries to remove bottlenecks on growth and to catalyze new supply chains, value chains and industrial chains that could better integrate developing countries into the global market. 

The BRI provides a new pathway and platform for international development cooperation. The five priority areas of BRI, namely policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial cooperation and people-to-people bond, are extensively linked with the 17 goals set by the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which have allowed for the UN to embrace the Initiative. At the First Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation two years ago, 279 deliverables covering five areas were yielded and all have been implemented. In April this year, the Second Forum, which attracted more than 6,000 delegates from 150 countries and 92 international organizations, including leaders from 38 countries and the UN and the IMF, was successfully held in Beijing, with the outcome of 283 deliverables covering six areas, and contracts worth of more than 64 billion dollars. 

The BRI has delivered fruitful outcomes in boosting economic growth and improving people's lives in participating countries. Through the Belt and Road cooperation, some countries now have their first expressways or modern railways, some have developed their own car industry, and some have seen an end to their longstanding power shortage. Thanks to the Belt and Road cooperation, Kazakhstan, the world's largest landlocked country, has gained access to the Pacific Ocean through the Lianyungang Port in China; and the China-Kazakhstan logistics terminal has become an international hub of cross-border transportation, warehousing, logistics and trade for many other Central Asian countries. Thanks to China Railway Express to Europe, the number of Chinese companies operating in Duisburg of Germany has grown from 40 in 2014 to more than 100 nowadays. Statistics from the Duisburg City Council show that, in the city's logistics sector alone, such freight services have created more than 6,000 jobs.

All these success stories fully demonstrate that the BRI has provided good opportunities for all parties involved to jointly address global challenges, promote global growth, and achieve common prosperity through greater connectivity. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke highly of the BRI, saying that it is "intrinsically linked to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals". The latest studies of the World Bank and other international institutions suggest that the Belt and Road Cooperation will cut the costs of global trade by 1.1 to 2.2 percent and those of trade along the China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor by 10.2 percent. What is more, it will contribute at least 0.1 percent to world economy in 2019.

III. China-Africa Cooperation
China directs most of its assisting funds to low-income developing countries. Africa is home to the largest number of the low-income developing countries and has always been at the top priority of China's international development assistance. China's assistance programs to Africa are multifaceted and carefully tailored, mainly focusing on Africa's most urgent development needs and the vulnerable groups in the region. China provides eight types of foreign aid to Africa, namely complete projects, goods and materials, technical cooperation, human resource development cooperation, medical assistance, emergency humanitarian aid, volunteer programs and debt relief. For example, a Chinese medical assistance program called "Brightness Trip ", which started in 2000 to provide free surgery for patients with eye diseases, has been very well received in African countries. 

For years, Africa has been grappling with security challenges, ranging from wars and conflicts to terrorism, refugees and piracy, which have severely hindered the development of the continent. Therefore, while carrying out the traditional assistance programs in Africa, China has taken peace and security as one of the priorities for China-Africa cooperation, believing that the root causes of underdevelopment should be addressed and that peace and security are prerequisites and guarantees for achieving Sustainable Development Goals. Therefore, China has actively participated in UN peacekeeping operations in Africa. At present, 80% of China's overseas peacekeeping personnel, nearly 2100 Chinese peacekeepers, are deployed in five UN peacekeeping missions in Africa, and 75% of peacekeeping assessments are spent in this continent. Besides, China has launched quite a number of programs related to anti-piracy, counter-terrorism and etc., and in 2015, China pledged to provide US$ 100 million military assistance to Africa and contribute a standby peacekeeping force of 8000 troops.

Since the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2000, China has actively developed its cooperation with African countries within the framework of the Forum and gradually expanded assistance to the region. The Beijing Summit of FOCAC held in September 2018 have drawn up a blueprint for the development of pragmatic and efficient China-Africa cooperation in the next five years. At the meeting, President Xi Jinping proposed the “eight major initiatives” for China-Africa cooperation, namely, industrial promotion, facility connectivity, trade facilitation, green development, capacity building, health and hygiene, humanities exchanges, peace and security. China will provide 15 billion U.S. dollars of free aid, interest-free loans and concessional loans, with a focus on supporting poverty-stricken areas in Africa to address the problems of poverty, sanitation, agriculture, environmental pollution, climate changes and etc. China has also exempted the least developed countries, heavily indebted poor countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States from the outstanding intergovernmental interest-free loan debts as of the end of 2018.

Africa is an indispensable part of the Belt and Road international cooperation. Since its inception, the BRI has received strong support and active participation from African countries. At present, 40 African countries and the AU Commission have signed BRI cooperation documents with China, and Africa has become the continent with the largest number of countries participating in the BRI and is one of the most determined supporters in the Belt and Road Cooperation, believing that it can break bottlenecks of development for the continent. The building of Mombasa-Nairobi Railway, for example, has driven Kenya's economic growth by 1.5% and created 46,000 jobs for local residents. This is only one of the fruitful outcomes that the BRI has brought to the economic boost and improvement of people's living standard in African continent.

The African leaders hailed the success of the FOCAC and appreciated China's non-interference in other countries' affairs, saying that China-Africa cooperation is practical, efficient and action-oriented and has strong follow-up mechanism which meets the needs of African countries. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also commended the vital and positive role China has played in promoting Africa's development, believing that China-Africa cooperation is of great significance to the implementation of the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and pledged that the UN fully supports and participates in China-Africa cooperation and Africa's development and supports cooperation within the framework of the BRI and FOCAC. 

IV. Participation in South-South Cooperation
South-South cooperation is the common cause of developing countries and embodies their aspirations and pursuits of common development. Today witnesses unbalanced global development, and developing countries are facing arduous task of advancing their economies and improving people's livelihood. South-South cooperation is an effective way for developing countries to unite themselves to forge a strong force to promote their development.

China has been a staunch supporter, active participant and important contributor to South-South cooperation, and has provided a large amount of assistance to other developing countries. Having suffered the same difficulties and facing the common challenges in growing economy and improving people's well-being, China has a development path and concepts that are of valuable reference to peer developing countries. With more insights into the need of its fellows, China provides more practical technologies, more viable cooperation projects, and thus more targeted assistance. 

In recent years, China has launched a number of pragmatic measures such as the South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund and the China-United Nations Peace and Development Fund to make positive contributions to promoting South-South cooperation. The South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund, announced by President Xi Jinping at the United Nations Development Summit on September 26, 2015, is an innovative funding approach of China's foreign aid. Up to now, the fund has been implemented in more than 30 developing countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America through the UN World Food Program (UNWFP), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN High Commissioner for Refugee (UNCHR), the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), and the International Committee of the Red Cross (IRCR). More than 50 projects have been launched, which cover health care, women and children, disaster relief and food aid, and have benefited nearly 20 million people in recipient countries. Through the fund, China, in cooperation with international organizations, has carried out various assistance and cooperation projects to help post-disaster reconstruction and refugee resettlement in Bangladesh, provide medical assistance to Rohingya refugees in Myanmar, assist in the resettlement for some 8,100 families in Pakistan, support the post-disaster reconstruction after the severe hurricane in the Commonwealth of Dominic, and donate emergency supplies to flood-stricken areas in southern Nepal. The fund has added new vitality to South-South cooperation.

V. Some Groundless Accusations
China's emergence as a major player in international development cooperation has sparked anxiety among some Western countries. As a result, in recent years, some Western countries have fabricated all kinds of allegations, such as geo-expansion, economic plundering, environmental destruction, debt trap and etc., trying to discredit the BRI and China's ever increasing contribution to international development cooperation.

All these accusations are absurd and groundless. As we all know, the BRI champions the Silk Road Spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit. It does not harbor any hidden geopolitical agenda, nor is designed to form an exclusive circle or impose discriminatory trade terms on others. Countries are free to make their decision to participate or not in the BRI. As a matter of fact, given the rising of protectionism and unilateralism, the openness and inclusiveness enshrined in the BRI have been widely applauded by the international community, especially by developing countries. In the past 6 years, the BRI has brought enormous development opportunities to participating countries. The total trade volume between China and related countries has exceeded 6 trillion US dollars, and direct investment has exceeded 90 billion US dollars. The establishment of economic and trade cooperation zones alone have created more than 200,000 jobs for the participating countries. All these data have attested that, contrary to the so-called "plundering", the BRI has brought significant economic benefits to countries where the projects are carried out. No one is in a better position to rebut the so-called debt trap allegation than the BRI participants themselves. Actually, no country has got trapped in a debt crisis since its participation in the BRI. Quite on the contrary, it is through participating in BRI cooperation that many countries have got out of the trap of "no development".

North-South cooperation should remain the main channel of international development cooperation. In recent years, developed countries have less political will and capacity in international development cooperation. Most of them have never fulfilled their commitment of spending 0.7% of their gross national income (GNI) on official development assistance (ODA). While providing assistance, they give more consideration to their international strategies and no longer provide indiscriminate assistance. In sharp contrast, as a developing country with a population of 1.4 billion, China is still facing onerous development tasks and capital shortage. But as a responsible country, China always bears in mind that the world is becoming more and more interdependent and that any egotistical and self-centered moves benefiting oneself at the expense of others will lose ground and be unpopular. It firmly believes that a win-win result can be achieved if some certain Western countries discard the zero-sum mindset and treat China as a partner, instead of a rival, to jointly unleash the development potential of the world.