BEIJING – China is close to matching the United States as a source of official grants and loans to developing countries, but much of Beijing's financing serves its own economic interests and yields scant benefits for recipients, a multinational group of researchers reported Wednesday.
The research by AidData, a lab at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, is the most extensive effort yet to measure official financing by China, which releases few details of its aid flows. That has spurred concern about Beijing's intentions as it tries to expand its global influence to match China's status as the world's second-largest economy.
China gave or lent $354.4 billion in the 15 years ending in 2014 in Africa, Asia and elsewhere, compared with $394.6 billion for the United States, according to AidData. It released a database of Chinese financing, assembled from thousands of sources of information, and a study on its impact by scholars from Harvard University, Germany's Heidelberg University and William & Mary.
China's secretiveness about its spending has fueled complaints its aid might prop up corrupt regimes or undercut environmental and human rights standards Western donors are trying to enforce.
Attention to Chinese financing has increased as Beijing promotes its “Belt and Road Initiative,” a multibillion-dollar initiative to expand China's trade links with Asia, Africa and the Middle East by building ports, roads and other facilities.
About 23 percent of Chinese spending met the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's definition of aid, or “official development assistance,” which requires at least 25 percent of a transfer to be a grant. By contrast, 93 percent of United States' spending falls under the definition of aid.