Is the time ripe for China's own aid agency?

By Lean Alfred Santos 28 April 2014
Children wave miniature Chinese flags. With $6.4 billion in annual official development assistance, should the Asian nation start its own aid agency? Photo by: Expectmohr / CC BY-NC-SA

China’s foreign policy is an issue that continues to polarize the international development community.

While Asia’s economic juggernaut is steadily becoming one the world’s fastest-rising emerging donors — with more than $6.4 billion in annual official development assistance, half of which goes to Africa — most observers remain clueless on how Beijing disburses these funds, what the country’s ODA policy really is, and how it views “development assistance” in terms of addressing the world’s humanitarian needs over its own commercial and economic interests.

Part of the reason why China’s aid activities continue to be shrouded in mystery — and even misery, some development experts would say — is the lack of centralized and accessible data on Chinese ODA.

As Brad Parks, co-executive director of transparency and innovation group AidData, told us last year, much of the data being gathered about Chinese aid is based almost exclusively on “individual case studies and journalistic accounts,” which makes it “tough to know if [the] conclusions are generally true.”