Make intl aid more effective and balanced

Updated: 2012-07-25 13:23

By Yang Hongxi (China Daily)

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Despite being a developing country, China has been sending aid to other developing countries over the past decades.

From Asia to Africa, from the eastern parts of Europe to the Caribbean islands, many countries have benefited from China's selfless gesture. By the end of 2009, China had sent aid to 161 countries and regions, and more than 30 international and regional organizations. Among them, 123 countries and regions have been long-term recipients of such aid.

According to the White Paper on China's Foreign Aid, released in April 2011, by the end of 2009, the country had given 256.29 billion yuan ($38.83 billion) in aid to foreign countries and regions, including 106.2 billion yuan in grants, 76.54 billion yuan in interest-free loans and 73.55 billion yuan in concessional loans.

By 2011, China had completed 2,200 programs, greatly improving the infrastructure of many countries. Every year, more than 10,000 personnel from developing countries receive training in China and go back to serve their native lands.

Such selfless, wide-ranging foreign aid has helped promote bilateral relations. China's aid to the developing regions in Asia, Africa and Latin America has not only raised local people's living standards, but also stimulated their long-term development. China's foreign aid demonstrates its role as a responsible world power and manifests its influence in wider regions.

Besides, foreign aid is also conducive to maintaining peace and stability, and helps overseas operations of China-based enterprises.

In recent years, certain Western powers have alleged that China's aid to Africa and other regions is nothing but a form of "neo-colonialism". But people who listen to what the African people say about China would know how ridiculous such allegations are.

The allegations, however, emphasize the need for China to publicize its foreign aid among the international community more widely to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings.

The government should optimize the structure and raise the quality of foreign aid, and help the recipients develop their own abilities. It also needs to conduct deeper research on the actual forms of foreign aid to make them more effective. For example, decisions on reducing debts should be made only after careful considerations to prevent certain countries from over-relying on China's aid. As the Chinese saying goes, give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. China should follow the same principle when it comes to foreign aid.

The government also has to be innovative with its general strategy. It can make foreign aid more transparent by enhancing cooperation with other countries and becoming part of multilateral donors, and learn from other donor countries how to make foreign aid more effective.

In Africa, for example, instead of giving aid to local governments or building infrastructure at huge costs, China could send food, medicines and other necessities (marked with the country's emblem) to non-governmental organizations and churches for distribution so that more people would benefit from them and know who helped them. Many NGOs have opened schools and/or clinics in Africa where people need them most. This is a cost-saving but more efficient way of reaching out to the local people.

Of course, as a developing country with more than 1.3 billion people, China needs to develop further to better help others. While selflessly helping people across the world, China should take measures to reduce poverty, promote social security and raise the education levels of its citizens.

China has been fulfilling its responsibility as a global power by selflessly sending foreign aid, and we expect it to do the job better.

The author is a researcher with China Center for Contemporary World Studies.