zero-tariff treatment gains wide claim. [Xinhua]
At the recent G20 summit in Cannes, President Hu Jintao said: "China will, in the context of South-South cooperation, give zero-tariff treatment to 97 percent of the tariff items of exports to China from the least developed countries having diplomatic ties with China." This is China's latest effort to promote South-South cooperation. Additionally, China has been offering foreign aid in the forms of turnkey projects, grant, technical assistance, human resource development, medical aid, humanitarian aid, debt relief, etc.
Not long ago, China was a poor country and itself receiving foreign aids; now it has become an important donor for many developing countries. According to China's White Paper on Foreign Aid, by the end of 2009, the total amount of China's foreign aid had reached 256 billion yuan. It is no wonder that so many people around the world have been asking the question: What are the motivations behind China's foreign aid?
As a member of the global community and a good friend of other developing countries, China has been embracing the ideal of achieving global prosperity through deepening South-South cooperation. Therefore, China has always tried its best to provide other developing countries with all kinds of assistance.
China's foreign aid began in 1950, when it provided material assistance to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Vietnam, two neighboring countries having friendly relations with China. Later, China formulated the guideline for its foreign aid programs called "Eight Principles."
The guideline was announced by Premier Zhou Enlai when he was visiting Africa from December 1963 to February 1964. The "Eight Principles" are: mutual benefit; no conditions attached; the no-interest or low-interest loans would not create a debt burden for the recipient country; to help the recipient nation develop its economy, not to create its dependence on China; to help the recipient country with project that needs less capital and quick returns; the aid in kind must be of high quality at the world market price; to ensure that the technology can be learned and mastered by the locals; the Chinese experts and technicians working for the aid recipient country are treated equally as the local ones with no extra benefits for them.
The "Eight Principles" are still in effect today. But some of them are criticized by the West. Particularly, the principle of "no conditions attached" is blamed for undermining recipient countries' own efforts to improve governance and international efforts at macroeconomic reform by institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
China's defense for this principle is simple: it upholds the "Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence," respects recipient countries' right to independently select their own path and model of development, and believes that every country should explore a development path suitable to its unique conditions. Therefore, China never uses foreign aid as a means to interfere in recipient countries' internal affairs or seek political privileges for itself. This is definitely compatible with the United Nation Charter.
Interestingly, China is sometimes called a "miser" for offering too little foreign assistance. U.S. journalist Andres Oppenheimer wrote in an article published in Miami Herald (April 3, 2010) saying that at the United Nations Donors Conference for Haiti held in New York on April 1, 2010, in which 59 countries and international organizations made pledges to help rebuild Haiti after the earthquake in early 2010, China agreed to donate only $1.5 million. He said this amount was, "to put it nicely, pitiful."
"China should be ashamed of its aid to Haiti," Oppenheimer said. "If China wants to be a well-respected world power, it should be a better global citizen…It's time for China to try to earn other countries' respect as a trusted partner and a good global citizen, like other big countries do."
What is definition of a "good global citizen?" Oppenheimer did not explain, though he hinted that a good global citizen needs to be more generous.
This criterion is problematic. We should not ignore the fact that many developed countries, including the United States, have failed to meet the requirement of the United Nation to allocate 0.7 percent of their GDP for foreign assistance to the developing world. Moreover, Oppenheimer failed to note that, just on the day when earthquake hit Haiti, China sent out a rescue team to the Caribbean nation. Before the April Donors Conference, China had already provided Haiti with 93 million yuan in both cash and goods, even though the country maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Despite its own grave poverty problem, China promises to make more efforts to optimize its foreign aid structure, improve the quality of aid, further increase recipient countries' capacity in pursuing independent development, and improve the pertinence and effectiveness of foreign aid. Therefore, it is possible to foresee that China's foreign aid will continue to benefit South-South cooperation.
The author is a columnist with China.org.cn. For more information please visit http://www.china.org.cn/opinion/jiangshixue.htm
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