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Data: Chinese Foreign Aid to Africa

Chinese Foreign AiD

1. Foreign aid data overview

Chinese foreign aid expenditures increased steadily from 2003 to 2015, growing from USD 631 million in 2003 to nearly USD 3 billion in 2015.  Foreign aid expenditures fell by nearly USD 750 million from 2015 to 2016. Foreign aid levels rose in 2017 to USD 2.45 billion. However, this amount is still less than the annual aid expenditures from 2011 to 2015.  

2. CARI foreign aid data compilation

CARI has combined and converted China’s officially published foreign aid data from the Ministry of Finance. All figures are reported in millions of US$ using annual exchanges rates and are available for download in Excel format. We have included all budgetary categories under “foreign affairs”, since several categories that are considered “foreign aid” by OECD definitions are in independent categories.

3. data

3.1 Official data

China’s Ministry of Finance has been publishing their annual central government budgets and expenditures since 2003. Relevant budget categories have evolved over the years, though what the budget category of “foreign aid” encompasses has remained fairly unchanged.

“Foreign aid” as a budget category existed as far as 2003, the earliest when China’s national budget is publically available online. At the time, “foreign aid” and “foreign affairs expenditure” were the only foreign affairs budget categories. The first category included complete-projects, goods and materials, technical cooperation, and medical teams. The second included foreign affairs management, international organization contributions, repayment of foreign properties costs, and provincial foreign affairs costs. This second category has split into more categories later on. In 2008, the category of “foreign affairs expenditure” was replaced by “overseas agencies cost” and “international organizations contributions”. In 2013, a “foreign affairs - miscellaneous” category was added, chiefly to support multilateral and bilateral policy research and exchange. In 2015, foreign cooperation and exchange became an independent category, while the miscellaneous category presumably continues in effect. While the “miscellaneous” category is not reported consistently every year, the reported total budget cost for all foreign affairs activities was always higher than the aggregate of all the reported categories each year, so it is assumed that unaccounted amounts can be attributed to this “miscellaneous” category.

According to 2011 white paper on China’s foreign aid, published by the State Council of the PRC, “Financial resources provided by China for foreign aid mainly fall into three types: grants (aid gratis), interest-free loans and concessional loans. The first two come from China's state finances, while concessional loans are provided by the Export-Import Bank of China as designated by the Chinese government […] Foreign aid expenditure is part of the state expenditure, under the unified management of the Ministry of Finance in its budgets and final accounts system.” Kitano & Harada (2016) have inferred that the foreign aid figures “were based on committed amounts and that disbursed amounts were therefore still unpublished.”

3.2 Other data sources

Due to the lack of transparency in China’s aid statistics, other efforts were undertaken to collect more information on China’s foreign aid, ranging from media-based, field-based, to extrapolating from official data. “Estimating China’s Foreign Aid 2001-2013” (2016), by Kitano & Harada at JICA Research Institute, provides an excellent overview of these efforts.