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China in Africa: The Real Story

Don't Get Excited: China is not the new aid superpower

Deborah Brautigam

My op-ed at The Guardian Global Development Professionals Network: What does recent news that China is increasing support for developing countries mean for international aid?

Xi Jinping at the United Nations, September 2015
The international development community keeps rediscovering – and misunderstanding – China. The latest episode came in September, when Chinese president Xi Jinping gave a speech at the UN after the launch of the new sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Xi pledged to support the SDGs. Specifically, China would set up a $2bn fund to support south-south cooperation. China would also try to increase its investment in the least developed countries to $12bn by 2030. Finally, his government would cancel some of the developing country debt owed to China.

The flush of media attention around these pledges suggested that they were something new and unprecedented. By giving assistance on this scale and forgiving debt, a BBC reporter wrote, China was (at last) willing to take on “more of the responsibilities that go with its status as an emerging superpower”. Others simply got it wrong. Many newspapers, including the New York Times and the Guardian wrote that China would “seek to increase the fund to $12bn by 2030”, which confused the assistance fund with the investment.

Seeing Xi Jinping’s pledges in historical context helps us to see what is actually new, and what this means for our understanding of China’s rise.

Click here to read more.