West right to aban­don bias of China’s de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance model

Global Times US Edition - - BIZCOMMENT - By Song Wei Page Ed­i­tor: [email protected]­al­times.com.cn

China has been pro­vid­ing for­eign as­sis­tance to Africa for al­most 70 years, and seven decades ago, the newly founded Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China did not hes­i­tate in its self­less sup­port of newly in­de­pen­dent African coun­tries in their de­sire to make their na­tions stronger.

Now, as anti-glob­al­iza­tion trends rise, the in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment sys­tem led by the West is in a predica­ment. African coun­tries’ ex­pec­ta­tions of Chi­nese de­vel­op­ment aid are grow­ing.

Some West­ern opin­ions crit­i­cize China’s of­fi­cial as­sis­tance to Africa from ide­o­log­i­cal and geopo­lit­i­cal per­spec­tives, de­scrib­ing it as neo­colo­nial­ism, debt diplo­macy or from an in­tent to ex­ploit Africa’s nat­u­ral re­sources. These dis­torted no­tions fun­da­men­tally re­flect the West’s util­i­tar­ian point of view when it comes to for­eign aid. For them, for­eign aid, even hu­man­i­tar­ian aid, is a form of bribery to achieve the po­lit­i­cal ends of the donor coun­tries.

Hold­ing this idea, the util­i­tar­ian model of for­eign as­sis­tance has cer­tainly mal­func­tioned. How­ever, they blame the re­cip­i­ent coun­tries for the fail­ure of for­eign as­sis­tance. Ac­cord­ing to West­ern donors, due to poor pub­lic gov­er­nance, the de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance they pro­vided failed to

achieve the de­sired out­comes.

Thus, West­ern donors gen­er­ate poli­cies based on their own ex­pe­ri­ence and ne­olib­eral rhetoric, adding po­lit­i­cal con­di­tions to for­eign as­sis­tance. They threaten to halt as­sis­tance if re­cip­i­ents fail to en­act West­ern-backed re­forms. Against this back­drop, many African coun­tries were forced to rush into pri­va­ti­za­tion and de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion re­forms, which re­sulted in po­lit­i­cal un­rest and eco­nomic re­ces­sion.

In con­trast, China’s de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance is un­der­pinned by quite dif­fer­ent val­ues, as the coun­try has shared ex­pe­ri­ences from be­ing col­o­nized, has the same de­vel­op­ing coun­try’s iden­tity and shares the same mis­sion as African na­tions to build a strong and in­de­pen­dent na­tion.

For a pe­riod of more than 100 years, China’s sovereignt­y was com­pro­mised un­der for­eign in­ter­ven­tion. Af­ter the found­ing of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China, pol­i­cy­mak­ers paid great re­spect to other coun­tries’ sovereignt­y. It is the ba­sis on which China has de­vel­oped for­eign re­la­tions and dealt with other de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. China em­pha­sizes that it will not in­ter­vene in other coun­tries’ in­ter­nal af­fairs through any form or chan­nel. The stance China takes has gained wide ac­cep­tance and recog­ni­tion among African coun­tries. There­fore, the China-backed rail­way con­nect­ing Tan­za­nia and Zam­bia goes by the name of the Great Uhuru Rail­way, where Uhuru means free­dom in Swahili. China at­tracts wide sup­port from African coun­tries at the UN.

As a de­vel­op­ing coun­try, China re­spects the path cho­sen by African coun­tries them­selves and makes sure African coun­tries main­tain in­te­grated sovereignt­y while us­ing China’s de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance. The de­sir­able re­sult and goal of the Chi­nese de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance has been clear: The as­sis­tance should be used to pro­mote na­tional eco­nomic in­de­pen­dence of African coun­tries, in­stead of mak­ing those coun­tries de­pend on for­eign coun­tries.

En­ter­ing the 21st cen­tury, Africa was on the rise af­ter the “third wave” of de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion. The con­ti­nent now faces a new round of po­lit­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion af­ter the Arab Spring. How to pro­mote good gov­er­nance has be­come a shared topic of China and African coun­tries.

De­spite the fact that shar­ing gov­er­nance ex­pe­ri­ence is no longer the key sub­ject of de­vel­op­ment aid to Africa, sup­port­ing coun­tries on the con­ti­nent to ex­plore de­vel­op­ment paths and draft de­vel­op­ment strate­gies that best suit them is still the premises of China’s de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance.

The Chi­nese ap­proach to for­eign aid which is in ac­cor­dance with re­cip­i­ent coun­tries’ sit­u­a­tions and de­vel­op­ment de­mand has al­tered the power struc­ture of the West­ern tra­di­tional aid sys­tem. By open­ing up more op­tions for re­cip­i­ents, China has weak­ened West­ern donors’ bar­gain­ing power, so re­cip­i­ents can pick the de­vel­op­ment model which fits them best. China’s ap­proach is wel­comed by de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

Chi­nese de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance ap­proach has an ob­vi­ous com­par­a­tive ad­van­tage to the West­ern model. The suc­cess of the Chi­nese ap­proach has prompted the West to re­flect and se­cu­ri­tize their aid with po­lit­i­cal add-ons from a the­o­ret­i­cal level to a prac­ti­cal level. The West’s at­ti­tude to­ward China’s as­sis­tance also started to turn from taunt­ing to fac­ing it, from re­proach­ing to en­gage­ment or try­ing to ex­ert in­flu­ence.

In re­cent years, coun­tries such as the US, France and Aus­tralia have pro­posed tri­lat­eral de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion. Ja­pan even at­tempted to pro­mote citylevel co­op­er­a­tion to by­pass the com­pli­cated ap­proval pro­ce­dures of central gov­ern­ments.

Fac­ing the grow­ing com­pli­ca­tions of in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance, China should not stay on the side­lines. It is nec­es­sary for the coun­try to learn and bor­row in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence to com­ple­ment each other and jointly make con­tri­bu­tions to African mod­ern­iza­tion. The au­thor is an as­so­ciate re­search fel­low at the Chi­nese Academy of In­ter­na­tional Trade and Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion un­der the Min­istry of Com­merce. bi­zopin­[email protected] glob­al­times.com.cn

Il­lus­tra­tion: Luo Xuan/gt

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