Going from a major recipient to a major donor of foreign aid, China has not only helped millions of people shake off poverty at home but also fueled the development of quite a number of developing countries over the past decades.
Figures speak louder than words. By 2009, China had offered 256 billion yuan ($39 billion) in aid to foreign countries, which greatly dwarfed the $7 billion in assistance it received from abroad in the past three decades, according to a white paper publicized on Tuesday. This is the first time that the Chinese government has officially issued a white paper on its foreign aid efforts.
Apart from money, China had also sent over 21,000 medical workers abroad by 2009 and provided equally needed free medical equipment and medicines.
The document not only briefed China's foreign aid history but also noted that China, being the world's second largest economy, will increase assistance to foreign countries to "an appropriate extent" -- a promise sure to be hailed by developing countries.
For ordinary Chinese, foreign aid is not a new word. In the early 1970s, despite a sluggish economy, China dispatched more than 50,000 workers to Africa to build a 1860-kilometer-long railway between Tanzania and Zambia, seen today as a monument of friendship between the Chinese and African people.
As a pillar of its foreign aid policy, China always gives priority to friendship rather than economic returns. When looking back, North Korea and Vietnam, both communist countries, were the first two recipients of Chinese foreign aid in 1950. Most recipient countries have been developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, illustrating the deep-rooted bond and history of mutual benefits within the framework of South-South cooperation.
China has been kept a low profile in its foreign aid activities, which has fanned the speculation that China's foreign aid for African countries has been aimed at garnering oil and natural resources.
The fact is that China's foreign aid funds, without carrying any political conditions, have been mainly directed to agriculture, infrastructure, public facilities, education and healthcare.
China's oil imports from Africa only account for 30 percent of total imports. To avoid such misunderstandings, it is reasonable for China to adjust its foreign aid strategy, such as promoting regional and sub-regional cooperation through such platforms as the China-Africa Cooperation Forum.
China has been accused of jumping on the bandwagon in an international system dominated by the West. However, the white paper indicates that China has promoted world peace and development. It is also an indication of responsibility which China assumes as the second largest economy.