Chinese aid and U.N. votes

The Virginia Gazette

"The Peoples Republic of China increased its foreign aid assistance to Africa, Latin America and Southwest Asia from approximately $1 billion in 2002 to $25 billion in 2007.This rapid increase has invited speculations about China's intention in the international order. Critics of Chinese aid characterize it as 'rouge aid' that undermines existing development programs, supports non-democratic regimes, and extracts resources from the recipient country for the donor's own gain," writes Darice Xue, in her award-winning essay in the fall issue of Monitor, William and Mary's highly regarded journal of international studies.

Darice Xue is a second-year student at W&M's accelerated BA-MPP program. She received her B.A. in International Relations last year. During her time at W&M she focused on the growing influence of emerging economies, particularly within international development. She worked as a Senior Research Assistant for AidData's Tracking Underreported Financial Flows projects, including China's development financing.

In her essay and in an interview with the Gazette, Xue explained that scholars are divided regarding the motivations behind Chinese foreign aid. "It is well established that political interests of traditional donor countries have long influenced aid allocation, and this trend follows for emerging donors as well."

Using purpose-coded aid data collected by the Tracking Unreported Financial Flows project at AidData, William & Mary's global movement to fundamentally change the way development assistance is targeted, Xue investigated the effects of Chinese foreign aid on the voting behavior of African countries at the U.N. from 2000 to 2012. She examined how the changes in the quantity of Chinese foreign aid influenced African countries' votes.

Her analysis found that Chinese foreign aid has statistically insignificant impact on the nations' voting records, while such factors as the first diplomatic exchange or support for important U.N. assignments made a difference.

Xue noted that China's economic rise has afforded it many new foreign policy tools, including an increased military presence and new diplomatic opportunities. While some view China's integration into global markets positively, others see it as a threat, especially given China's aggressive tendencies in Southeast Asia.

Still others caution against overreaction, Xue said, because China has many domestic problems yet to solve, including a shrinking work force, growing wealth inequality, and democratization pains. "As China's economy slows, these problems will become more apparent, forcing the government to redirect its resources away from external expansion and toward building internal cohesion."

Nevertheless, Xue emphasized, China has always regarded foreign aid as an important tool, even during tumultuous periods. It wishes to project the profile of a "responsible power that is leveraging its economic influence to assist developing countries while integrating with the global economy."

I her 20 page essay, Xue describes the history and motivation of Chinese foreign aid since the establishment of The People's Republic of China. She notes that with the souring of Sino-Soviet relations in 1960 under Mao and Stalin, China searched elsewhere for allies to replace the vacuum left by the Soviet Union.

"Around 1964, Premier Zhou Enlai lay the foundations for Chinese foreign aid in his "Five Principles of Peace Coexistence" and "Eight Principles of Foreign Aid," which remain influential in their promise of non-intervention and unconditionality. China found a foothold in newly colonized nations in Africa," quotes Xue from Domingos Muekalia's "Africa and China's Strategic Partnership."

In conclusion, Xue writes, "My study suggests that China's apparent economic influence in the developing world should not be as great a concern as it has been to members of the developed world; Chinese foreign aid has not significantly increased voting alignment with China for U. N. resolutions nor has it stolen votes away from the United States."

Shatz is a Williamsburg resident. He is the author of "Reports from a Distant Place," the compilation of his selected columns. The book is available at the Bruton Parish Store, and on Amazon.com

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