This article presents updated estimates of China’s foreign aid between 2001 and 2014 as a proxy for China’s official development assistance (ODA) as defined by the OECD-DAC, and to compare this with the ODA of other DAC members. China’s net foreign aid increased from US$5.2bn in 2012 to US$5.4bn in 2013, but dropped to US$4.9bn in 2014. Since 2013, China has ranked at number nine. Its bilateral foreign aid has ranked at number six, alongside Japan and France, since 2012, while multilateral foreign aid has been relatively less significant. It is estimated that net disbursements of preferential export buyer’s credits decreased from US$4.9bn in 2012 to US$4.7bn in 2013, increasing to US$6.1bn in 2014. China has increased the volume of its foreign aid, improved the quality of it, and diversified the fields of aid activity. It is important for the international community to carefully examine the magnitude of China’s foreign aid.
Keywords: China, foreign aid, development finance, ODA, concessional loans, OECD-DAC.
This article aims to present updated estimates of China’s foreign aid volumes between 2001 and 2014 as a proxy for China’s official development assistance (ODA) defined by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and to compare the results with the ODA of other DAC members. I draw on budget data from the websites of 50 departments2 and from other relevant organisations within China, as well as from other relevant sources of information. The estimation process I have chosen to use has been modified from the one proposed in the previous work of Kitano and Harada (2014)3 so that I have been able to revise and update the previous estimates for the period between 2001 and 2014.
The previous work showed that China’s net foreign aid has grown rapidly since 2004, reaching US$7.1bn in 2013. The share of bilateral aid is much larger than that of multilateral aid. The results have presented a relatively realistic view of China’s foreign aid; its ranking had been moderate, ranking below number 13 until 2008, before moving rapidly up to number six in 2012. As a point of reference, the net disbursement of preferential export buyer’s credits was estimated to have been US$7.0bn in 2013.
What distinguishes this estimate from the Chinese government’s official figures and other estimates is that as a practical definition of China’s foreign aid it first introduces the concept of net and gross disbursements of foreign aid (net and gross foreign aid), in a way that is as comparable as possible to that for the net and gross disbursements of ODA. Secondly, the estimate includes multilateral aid within the total aid; and thirdly, disaggregated department-level budget data sets are used to estimate grants and interest-free loans as well as multilateral aid.
The results of the previous work were presented on a number of occasions and a number of comments and suggestions were offered. Some examples of these are as follows: an estimate of 0.072 per cent as China’s net ODA/GNI (gross national income) ratio4 in 2012 may be too high; the expected annual growth rate of China’s foreign aid in the previous scenario, which is 15 per cent, is too high and should be level with the gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate; it is important to capture the volume of development finance and include not only foreign aid but also other official flows.
I have incorporated some of those comments and suggestions into the present article. For example, in the previous work the annual rate of increase in gross disbursements of concessional loans provided by the Export–Import Bank of China (China Exim Bank) was simply assumed based on the average annual rate of increase of 33 per cent from 2006 to 2011. To incorporate the above-mentioned comments on net ODA/GNI ratio and the expected annual growth rate of China’s foreign aid contained in the previous work, I have introduced a modified process for estimating the gross disbursements of concessional loans in 2012, 2013, and 2014. I found that there might be weak regularity within a cumulative amount of the framework loan agreement (‘the framework agreement’), the project loan agreement (‘the loan agreement’), and the gross disbursement of concessional loans: the cumulative amount of the gross disbursements of concessional loans in a given year is similar to that of the loan agreement signed two years ago, which is in turn similar to that of the framework agreement from one year prior to that. This weak regularity has been used to estimate the gross disbursements of concessional loans in this article.
As a result of introducing this modified estimation process, it was found that China’s foreign aid volumes in 2012 and 2013 were significantly smaller than the previous estimates – China’s ranking was number ten in 2012 and number nine in 2013, rather than number six as it was estimated in the previous work. Furthermore, the estimate made in 2014 implied that China’s foreign aid had decreased from 2013. If these results are close to accurate, the current estimates provide improved knowledge on China’s foreign aid budget data for grants and loans, and for comparison of China’s foreign aid with DAC member countries.
The rest of this article proceeds as follows: Section 2 will review recent official documents and relevant literature. Section 3 will reiterate the definition of China’s foreign aid as a proxy for ODA. Section 4 will show the estimation process I employed in this article. Section 5 will present the revised and updated estimates of China’s net and gross disbursements of foreign aid (net and gross foreign aid) through the estimation process, and compare the results of this article with the estimates given in the previous article, the official figure given by China, and the DAC’s estimates. Section 6 will compare the results with the net and gross disbursements of ODA extended by DAC members. Section 7 concludes.
2 Recent official documents and relevant literature
The 2011 White Paper on China’s foreign aid (Information Office of the State Council 2011) was published in 2011, and was then followed by ‘the 2014 White Paper’ (Information Office of the State Council 2014) released in 2014. The 2014 White Paper stated that the aggregate amount of China’s foreign aid from 2010 to 2012 was RMB89.34bn (US$13.7bn).5 Even though the 2014 White Paper provided more information than the 2011 White Paper, there is still room for improvement; for example, the 2014 White Paper does not present the annual amount of China’s foreign aid, the disaggregated amount by country and sector, or the consolidated amount of all forms of assistance described in the document as being covered not only by the foreign aid budget but also other budget items.
In November 2014, the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) released ‘Measures for the Administration of Foreign Aid (For Trial Implementation)’ (MOFCOM 2014).6 According to MOFCOM, this was the first comprehensive departmental regulation on the management of foreign assistance.7 In this document, the term ‘foreign aid’ refers to those activities which provide economic, technical, material, human resources, and administrative support to recipient countries, supported by the Chinese government’s ‘financial resources for foreign aid’. The forms of foreign aid outlined in this document are similar to those in the 2011 and 2014 White Papers: namely, grants, interest-free loans, and concessional loans. The regulations stipulate that MOFCOM is, in conjunction with the relevant departments under the State Council, responsible for formulating mid- to long-term foreign aid policy and country aid strategies, which shall be implemented upon approval. MOFCOM is responsible for collecting, collating, and preparing statistical material on foreign aid. The release of this document is a significant step towards enhancing China’s institutionalisation of aid mechanisms. However, due to the definition of ‘foreign aid’ mentioned above, MOFCOM was unable to consolidate other relevant forms of assistance covered by other budget items, such as ‘international organisations’. In Section 3, the definition of foreign aid proposed in this article will be compared with MOFCOM’s official definition.
The DAC (OECD 2015) estimated China’s gross concessional flows for development cooperation, including bilateral cooperation and developmental funds channelled through multilateral organisations. The former was estimated based on the budget data (the final accounts of central-level public budget expenditure for foreign aid) from China’s Ministry of Finance, while the latter was estimated based on information from those multilateral organisations. My estimates have two differences with the DAC’s estimates: firstly, the net disbursements of concessional loans have been included; secondly, as was the case for multilateral foreign aid, budget data from the Chinese government rather than information from multilateral organisations was used so that bilateral and multilateral foreign aid data could be compiled in a coherent manner.
A number of relevant articles concerning China’s foreign aid have been published. Similar to the estimates by DAC, some of the articles analysed China’s aid activities based on official data from the Chinese government and information from relevant sources (Lancaster 2007; Brautigam 2009; Kobayashi and Shimomura 2013; UNDP China 2013). These attempts, however, only estimated bilateral gross foreign aid. Some other articles have tried to capture not only foreign aid but also other types of development finance (Lum et al. 2009; Wolf, Wang and Warner 2013; Strange et al. 2014). Hwang, Brautigam and Eom (2016) have constructed a commitment-based database of Chinese loans in Africa between 2000 and 2014, granted mainly by the China Exim Bank, China Development Bank (CDB), and Chinese contractors. Several pieces of literature have focused on sectoral analyses in specific regions (Brautigam 2015; Gransow 2015).
3 Definition of China’s foreign aid
Following Kitano and Harada (2014), in this article China’s foreign aid is defined as the net and gross disbursements of foreign aid (net and gross foreign aid) consisting of: (1) grants and interest-free loans8 managed by MOFCOM; (2) grants managed by other departments responsible for foreign aid; (3) scholarships provided by the Ministry of Education to students from other developing countries; (4) the estimated amount of interest subsidies on concessional loans which is deducted from the total amount of aid; (5) the net and gross disbursements of concessional loans as bilateral foreign aid; and (6) multilateral foreign aid, which is defined as the cumulative amount of expenditure by departments and other relevant organisations with a budget for international organisations, adjusted by the DAC-defined coefficients for core contributions.
What distinguishes these estimates from MOFCOM’s official definition of foreign aid is that the MOFCOM definition does not cover points (3), (4), (6) or part of (2) above. Further, MOFCOM’s official figures are aggregated amounts and in the case of grant and interest-free loans, they are most likely commitment-based. Additionally, in the case of concessional loans, they are most likely to be framework agreement-based rather than disbursement-based.
4 Process used for estimating China’s foreign aid
This section will outline the process I used to estimate China’s net and gross foreign aid from 2001 to 2014, which was based on the definition presented in Section 3. Comprehensive spreadsheets were compiled in order to make the most of statistics and information from a large number of sources in a systematic way. Tables 1a and 1b present a detailed summary of the estimation process.
The figures in bold were extracted from publicly accessible statistics and information, those in italics were obtained from graphs, those highlighted in grey were critical figures estimated by the setting of assumptions, and the remaining figures (neither in bold, italics, nor highlighted in grey) were calculated from other columns. Figures from 2001 to 2011 and those from 2012 to 2014 were estimated using a different process. As mentioned in Section 1, at various seminars comments were offered on the net ODA/GNI ratio and the expected annual growth rate of China’s foreign aid as discussed in the previous work; these comments have been incorporated into the current estimation process. It was found that there might be weak regularity in terms of time lag among cumulative amounts of the framework agreement, loan agreement, and gross disbursement of concessional loans: the cumulative amount of gross disbursements of concessional loans in a given year is similar to that of the loan agreements signed two years ago, which is similar to that of the framework agreement from one year prior to that. This weak regularity was then used to estimate the gross disbursements of concessional loans in 2012, 2013, and 2014, as follows.
Column (1), ‘Final account of central-level public budget expenditure for foreign aid’, was obtained from the Finance Yearbook of China for 2002 and 2003, and the website of the Ministry of Finance.10 Column (2), ‘Sum of final account of central-level public budget expenditure for foreign aid and gross disbursement of concessional loans’, was obtained from a bar graph.11 Column (3), ‘Outstanding amount of two preferential facilities’12 by China Exim Bank was inferred from a line graph without scale.13 The figures for 2009 and 2012 in column (4), ‘Cumulative amount of framework agreement for concessional loans’, are given from the 2011 and 2014 White Papers (Information Office of the State Council 2011, 2014). Then, I first estimated the figure for 2010 in column (5), ‘Framework agreement for concessional loans’, assuming the figure for 2010 in column (18), ‘Grants and interest-free loans by MOFCOM’ as the commitment-based amount of grants and interest-free loans in 2010, and multiplied it by the ratio of the cumulative amount of the framework agreement for concessional loans (RMB49.76bn) divided by the cumulative amount of grants and interest-free loans by MOFCOM (RMB39.58bn) from 2010 to 2012, as stated in the 2014 White Paper. I then estimated figures for 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2013 using the inferred rate of increase between 2009 and 2013, which was 11 per cent.14
Regarding the figure for 2014, in order to incorporate one of the comments mentioned in Section 1 that the expected annual growth rate of China’s foreign aid in the previous scenario, which was 15 per cent, was too high and should be at the level of the GDP growth rate, the annual rate of increase in 2014 was assumed to be 7 per cent, which was the same range of China’s GDP growth (7.3 per cent in 2014). The figure for 2009 contained in column (6), ‘Cumulative amount of concessional loans signed’, was given as RMB59.4bn, based on Hu and Huang (2012). I then inferred the figure for 2009 in column (7), ‘Concessional loans signed’, through multiplying the figure for 2009 in column (6) by the ratio of the figure for 2009 in column (5) divided by the figure for 2009 in column (4). The figures from 2010 to 2014 in column (7) were inferred by assuming the rates of increase to be set by 30 per cent, 6 per cent, 10 per cent, 10 per cent, and 10 per cent for 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 respectively, based on the weak regularity mentioned above.
Figures from 2002 to 2011 in column (8), ‘Gross disbursement of concessional loans’, were calculated by subtracting column (1) from column (2). Figures for 2001 came from the China Exim Bank 2001 Annual Report in which annual gross disbursements from concessional loans from 1996 to 2001 were recorded. Figures from 2012 to 2014 were inferred by assuming the rate of increase in column (7) as 7 per cent, 7 per cent, and 5 per cent for 2012, 2013, and 2014 respectively, based on the weak regularity mentioned above. Column (10), ‘Repayment of concessional loans’, was estimated using data in column (8) by assuming that a condition of the loan was a 15-year repayment period with a five-year grace period. Column (11), ‘Net disbursement of concessional loans’, was obtained by subtracting column (10) from column (8). Column (12), ‘Outstanding amount of concessional loans’, was calculated by adding this year’s figure in column (11) to the previous year’s figure in column (12). Column (13), ‘Subsidies for concessional loans’, was estimated by assuming that one third of the interest rate difference between the lending rate of concessional loans and the RMB benchmark loan interest rate has been subsidised by the government.
Figures from 2001 to 2011 in column (14), ‘Outstanding amount of preferential export buyer’s credits’, were calculated by subtracting column (12) from column (3). Those from 2012 to 2014 were derived by subtracting the outstanding amount of export buyer’s credits in each annual report of the China Exim Bank from the sum of the outstanding amount of export buyer’s credits and preferential export buyer’s credits. Figures in column (15), ‘Net disbursement of preferential export buyer’s credits’, were calculated by subtracting the previous year’s figure from the current year’s figure in column (14). Column (16), ‘Repayment of preferential export buyer’s credits’, was estimated using data in column (14), and assuming the loan conditions of a 15-year repayment period with a five-year grace period. Column (17), ‘Gross disbursement of preferential export buyer’s credits’, was calculated by adding column (15) and column (16) together.
There are 11 departments and other relevant organisations that have the budget sub-item, ‘Foreign aid (20203)’, while 50 have the budget sub-item, ‘International organisations (20204)’ under the budget item, ‘Foreign affairs (202)’ for at least one year between 2010 to 2014. The figures in column (18), ‘Grants and interest-free loans by MOFCOM’ between 2010 and 2014 were obtained from the final departmental accounts on public budget expenditure from MOFCOM. Figures between 2001 and 2009 were derived through the assumption that 90 per cent of the final account of the central-level public budget expenditure for foreign aid column (1) was appropriated to and implemented by MOFCOM (Grimm et al. 2011). Figures from 2010 to 2014 column (19), ‘Grants by other departments and relevant organisations’, consist of the National Health and Family Planning Commission (the former Ministry of Health), which has jurisdiction over the Chinese medical teams working abroad, and several other departments.15 Figures from 2010 to 2014 were obtained from the foreign aid expenditure in the final accounts of the relevant departments. It was assumed that from 2001 to 2009, grants for other departments were 3 per cent of the final account of central-level public budget expenditure for foreign aid (see Annexe Table A1).
Column (20), ‘Scholarships for foreign students from other developing countries by the Ministry of Education’, was estimated based on the assumption that two-thirds of foreign students receiving Chinese government scholarships are from other developing countries. Thus, in the final accounts of the Ministry of Education from 2008 to 2014, two-thirds of the total expenditure for scholarships for foreign students studying in China (budget second sub-item (2050602) was identified as foreign aid. The ratio of scholarships for foreign students from other developing countries divided by the final account of central-level public budget expenditure for foreign aid (column (1)), which was 2 per cent in 2008, was used to estimate the figures from 2001 to 2007.
In relation to China’s multilateral foreign aid, the DAC defines multilateral ODA as contributions to multilateral agencies on the DAC List of ODA-eligible international organisations. If an agency’s core-funded activities are only in part development-related, the coefficients for core contributions are determined to assess the share which corresponds to their development activities. The DAC (OECD 2015) estimated China’s development-oriented contributions to and through multilateral organisations as a three-year average between 2011 and 2013 mainly based on the websites of multilateral organisations. Referring to the DAC’s estimates, I attempted to estimate China’s multilateral foreign aid based on China’s budget information.
Column (21), ‘Final account of central government public budget expenditure for international organisations’, was obtained from the website of the Ministry of Finance16 and covers figures from 2007 to 2014. I assumed that from 2001 to 2007, budget expenditure for international organisations had increased annually by 10 per cent, which is an actual average rate of increase between 2008 and 2013, reached through back calculation from 2007. Column (22), ‘Sum of final account of department public budget expenditure for international organisations’, shows the sum of the final account of public budget expenditure from 2010 to 2014 for 50 departments and other relevant organisations described above. It is assumed that the figures from 2001 to 2009 are equal to those in column (16). Based on Table 49.3 in OECD (2015), I have selected 20 listed multilateral organisations and verified China’s annual contributions from 2010 to 2014 based on publicly available documents such as the annual reports for each organisation. I have attempted to identify 12 out of the 50 departments within the Chinese government which are responsible for the above-mentioned multilateral organisations. Except for the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), these departments are among the top 12 departments in terms of budget expenditure amounts for 2014.
Next, using the publicly available documents from multilateral organisations, I compared the sum of the annual contributions derived for each respective department with each department’s final accounts of public budget expenditure for international organisations. In some cases, the former was larger than the latter; this is possibly attributable to a lack of budget figures for particular years. There were also cases where the former was smaller than the latter because a department’s accounts may have included budget expenditure for other international organisations which I have not been able to identify. Thus, I have checked each year’s budget expenditure figures for each department and adjusted them where necessary. Finally, I calculated the core contributions for each department using the coefficients in the DAC List of ODA-eligible international organisations. As for the other 38 departments, I assume a coefficient for core contributions of 30 per cent. The estimates from 2010 to 2014 are shown in column (23), ‘Sum of final account of department public budget expenditure for international organisations: Adjusted’ (for details, see Annexe Table A2). The figures from 2001 to 2009 were estimated by using the figures in column (22) and assuming a coefficient for core contributions of 30 per cent.
Based on the estimation process described above, column (A) in Table 1b, ‘Bilateral: Grants and interest-free loans’, was derived by adding columns (18), (19), and (20), and deducting column (13). Column (B), ‘Bilateral: Net disbursement of concessional loans’, is equal to column (11). Column (C), which is the sum of columns (A) and (B), shows the bilateral net foreign aid, while column (D), ‘Multilateral: Government expenditure for international organisations’ presents the estimated amount of multilateral foreign aid which is equal to column (23). Column (E), ‘Total net foreign aid’, equals the sum of columns (C) and (D). Column (F), ‘Bilateral: Gross disbursement of concessional loans’, is equal to column (9). Column (G), ‘Bilateral: Gross foreign aid’, which is the sum of columns (A) and (F), shows the gross bilateral foreign aid and column (H), ‘Total: Gross foreign aid’, equals the sum of columns (G) and (D).
Finally, the net and gross disbursements of preferential export buyer’s credits are listed in column (I) which is equal to column (15) and in column (J) which is equal to column (17)
5 Results of the estimation
Figures 1 and 2, which are derived from Tables 1a and 1b, depict China’s estimated net and gross foreign aid in US$ terms. Net foreign aid is estimated to have been US$5.2bn in 2012, US$5.4bn in 2013, and US$4.9bn in 2014. Compared with the previous estimates of Kitano and Harada (2014), figures were either upwardly or downwardly revised from 2001 to 2013. In particular, the previous estimate of the net foreign aid in 2012 and 2013 amounting to US$5.7bn and US$7.1bn was downwardly revised to US$5.2bn and US$5.7bn respectively due to the fact that net disbursements of concessional loans were significantly downwardly revised from US$2.6bn to US$2.0bn in 2012 and from US$3.5bn to US$2.1bn in 2013 respectively as a result of the introduction of the modified estimation process.
These results show several findings: first, it is rather surprising that net foreign aid has increased steadily since 2001; however, it decreased in 2014 when compared with 2013. Looking at the figures in detail, the grants and interest-free loans in bilateral foreign aid were downwardly estimated for two consecutive years from 2012 to 2014. The ‘Audit results of budget implementation and other government revenues and expenditures of the Ministry of Commerce for the year 2014’ issued by the National Audit Office (NAO)17 pointed out the reasons why MOFCOM’s final account on public budget expenditure for foreign aid consisting of grants and interest-free loans was smaller than the original public expenditure budget in 2014, which were: that verification of feasibility studies of part of the projects at the project approval stage were not sufficient, that there were time differences between the planned and actual disbursement schedules of some projects, and in some cases that project budgets were released late. The NAO audit report did not provide any further evidence on this issue. However, there is some secondary evidence. For example, at the media briefing on ‘Measures for the Administration of Foreign Aid (For Trial Implementation)’ organised by MOFCOM, its officials emphasised the same point: the importance of management of the approval stages of the project.18 This suggests that some projects might perform unsatisfactorily because of a lack of sufficient verification of the feasibility of studies in the approval stages, which may have partly caused a downward trend in grants and interest-free loans.
Second, the rate of increase in the gross disbursements of concessional loans dropped from 75 per cent in 2009 to 13 per cent in 2011: it then continued to decrease to 5 per cent in 2014. This can be attributed to the change in the estimation process.19
Third, as for multilateral foreign aid, final accounts on public budget expenditure for international organisations by the Ministry of Finance increased in 2013 and decreased significantly in 2014 (see Annexe Table A2). This was due to the fact that China had already completed the capital increase for the World Bank’s 2010 shareholding realignment: Selective Capital Increase (SCI) for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) – a reform of voting power.20
In 2014, the share of bilateral foreign aid is much larger, at 93 per cent, than that of the previous year due to a six percentage point decrease in multilateral foreign aid. The proportion of concessional loans to total foreign aid is 43 per cent. The difference between net foreign aid (Figure 1) and gross foreign aid (Figure 2) is still minimal, since the repayment of concessional loans was a relatively low 3 per cent of outstanding loan amounts in 2014.
As a reference point, the net disbursements of preferential export buyer’s credits, which some recipient countries treat as ODA, are estimated to have totalled US$4.9bn in 2012, US$4.7bn in 2013, and US$6.1bn in 2014. The revised figure in 2013 was substantially smaller than the previous estimate, which was US$7.0bn and was a decrease from the previous year. The figure in 2014 exceeded the amount of total net foreign aid. If this figure is combined as net concessional flows, the totals are estimated to have reached US$11.0bn in 2014.
6 Comparison with selected DAC members
This section will compare the previously stated estimates of China’s foreign aid with the ODA to DAC members. Table 2 shows the ranking in terms of net ODA and net foreign aid.
In the previous estimates, China was ranked at either number 16 or number 17 until 2006, then moved up to number 14 in 2007 and to number 11 in 2011. China then sat at number six in both 2012 and 2013. However, the results of this article suggest that China actually moved up to number ten in 2012 and to number nine in 2013. In 2014, China kept its ranking at number nine just behind Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands. China’s net ODA/GNI ratio in 2012 was estimated as 0.066 per cent which is smaller than the previous estimate of 0.072 per cent. The ratio then dropped to 0.060 per cent in 2013 and 0.049 per cent in 2014. With regard to the ranking, China was ranked at 29 in 2014.21
Figure 3 compares the trend of China’s net foreign aid to trends in net ODA provided by a selected group of DAC members: France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, the UK, and the US. China’s level of net foreign aid was similar to that of South Korea, the second Asian member of the DAC, until 2005 when it increased sharply as China began to catch up with high-ranking countries.
In terms of gross ODA shown in Figure 4, China’s gross foreign aid is almost equal to its net foreign aid which was estimated to have decreased between 2013 and 2014, as shown in Figure 3. Until 2013, Japan was second to the US but in 2014, it went down to fourth position.
This article has attempted to revise and update the estimates of China’s foreign aid from 2001 to 2014, and to compare the results with the ODA of DAC members based on the previous work. The results have presented an unexpected view of China’s foreign aid. Net foreign aid is estimated to have decreased from US$5.4bn in 2013 to US$4.9bn in 2014. My estimates of 2012 and 2013 were significantly smaller than the previous estimates which were US$5.7bn and US$7.1bn respectively. However, those figures need to be used with considerable caution which may overestimate or underestimate the actual figures depending on the rate of increase in gross disbursement of concessional loans.
Since 2013, China has been ranked at number nine, while in terms of net bilateral aid, its ranking has been number six, next to Japan and France, since 2012. Importantly, the net disbursements of preferential export buyer’s credits are estimated to have totalled US$4.7bn in 2013 and US$6.1bn in 2014. My estimate for 2013 was also significantly smaller than the previous estimate which was US$7.1bn and was a decrease from the previous year.
With the announcement of a number of new initiatives and commitments, the Chinese government has recently engaged more proactively in international development. The 13th Five-Year Plan (2016–2020)22 stated in Chapter 53 entitled ‘Assume International Responsibilities and Obligations’ that China will increase the amount of foreign aid and improve the ways in which it is offered; offer more advice and training; expand foreign cooperation and aid in the field of science, technology, education, medical care, disaster prevention and mitigation, environmental governance, the protection of wild fauna and flora, and poverty alleviation; step up the provision of humanitarian aid; actively implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; and actively participate in the peacekeeping operations of the United Nations. It seems that China has not only increased its foreign aid volume, but has also improved its quality and diversified fields of aid activities while trying to align with global agendas such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). On the other hand, some countries receiving loans from China are at particular risk of debt distress (Hurley, Morris and Portelance 2018). It is therefore important for the international community to carefully examine the magnitude of China’s foreign aid.23
Lastly, I would like to outline a number of future research topics relating to my work. The first possible area of research is the disaggregation of China’s foreign aid by regions/countries and sectors. As described in Section 2, some of the previous literature has focused on estimating China’s development finance for specific regions such as Africa. A combination of estimates based on both budget data and project-level data might be a direction towards a more comprehensive estimation.
The second research topic is to estimate foreign aid based on the DAC’s revised system for measuring development finance. At the DAC High Level Meeting (DAC-HLM) held in December 2014,24 DAC members agreed to modernise the reporting of concessional loans by introducing a grant equivalent system. The Principles of ODA modernisation on Private Sector Instruments and the boundaries of ODA in the field of peace and security were also agreed by DAC members at the DAC-HLM in February 2016. The final research topic aims to estimate China’s development finance in accordance with the definition of Total Official Support for Sustainable Development (TOSSD), which has been under discussion in the international community.25
3 Kitano and Harada (2014) originated during the process of writing Kitano (2014). It was later published in the Journal of International Development (Kitano and Harada 2016). In this article, the terms ‘Kitano and Harada (2014)’, ‘the previous work’, ‘the previous estimates’, ‘the previous scenario’, or ‘the previous article’, all refer to Kitano and Harada (2014).
5 Here the three-year average for exchange rates of US$/RMB6.5147 is used. This consists of a grant of RMB32.32bn (US$5.0bn), interest-free loans of RMB7.26bn (US$1.1bn), and concessional loans of RMB49.76bn (US$7.6bn).
6 As to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China’s unofficial translation not being proofread by MOFCOM, see www.cn.undp.org/content/china/en/home/library/South-South-cooperation/measures-for-the-administration-of-foreign-aid-.html.
7 See MOFCOM’s media briefing on this regulation, http://english.mofcom.gov.cn/article/newsrelease/press/201412/20141200851923.shtml.
8 According to the 2011 and 2014 White Papers (Information Office of the State Council 2011, 2014), in a similar manner to grants, the disbursements of interest-free loans, which have a tenure of 20 years, including five years of use, a five-year grace period, and a ten-year repayment period, are 100 per cent financed by central government expenditure. For this reason, and for the convenience of estimation, interest-free loans were treated as though they were grants. Thus, the amount of the above-mentioned debt relief for interest-free loans was not included in the total amount of aid.
9 See https://tinyurl.com/y7n2sty9 [in Chinese].
10 See http://yss.mof.gov.cn/zhengwuxinxi/caizhengshuju/ [in Chinese].
11 This bar graph was uploaded as part of a presentation on the website of UNESCAP Sub-Regional Office for East and North-East Asia (SRO-ENEA). See www.unescap.org/sites/default/files/Session1_Li_China.pdf.
13 This line graph was included in a presentation uploaded on the website of the China International Contractors Association. See www.chinca.org/cms/html/files/2013-12/16/20131216102948872930302.pdf [in Chinese].
14 I estimated this rate at which the cumulative amount of the framework agreement for concessional loans from 2010 to 2012 in column (5) is nearly equal to the corresponding figure (RMB49.76bn) in the 2014 White Paper.
15 Regarding the relationship between MOFCOM and other departments and the Ministry of Finance, the 2011 White Paper (Information Office of the State Council 2011) stated that the Ministry of Finance manages foreign aid expenditure in its budgets and final accounts system, while MOFCOM and other departments under the State Council that are responsible for the management of foreign aid handle financial resources for foreign aid in their own departments in accordance with their respective jurisdictions.
17 See www.audit.gov.cn/n5/n25/c67488/part/31322.pdf [in Chinese].
18 See MOFCOM’s media briefing on this regulation at http://english.mofcom.gov.cn/article/newsrelease/press/201412/20141200851923.shtml.
19 In the previous estimates, it was assumed that the annual rate of increase in gross disbursement of concessional loans was set at 33 per cent for 2012 and 2013; this assumption was based on the fact that the average annual rate of increase from 2006 to 2011 was 33 per cent.
21 See ‘Development aid in 2015 continues to grow despite costs for in-donor refugees’ on the OECD website, www.oecd.org/dac/stats/ODA-2015-detailed-summary.pdf.
24 The DAC High Level Meeting, Final Communiqué, 16 December 2014, www.oecd.org/dac/OECD%20DAC%20HLM%20Communique.pdf.
25 As for the ongoing discussion on TOSSD, see www.oecd.org/dac/financing-sustainable-development/tossd.htm.
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© 2018 The Author. IDS Bulletin © Institute of Development Studies | DOI: 10.19088/1968-2018.148
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This article is part of IDS Bulletin Vol. 49 No. 3 July 2018: ‘Emerging Economies and the Changing Dynamics of Development Cooperation’; the Introduction is also recommended reading.