China’s economy may be one of the largest in the world but the country still receives more foreign aid than countries like Ethiopia, where poverty is widespread. In fact, Japan is the largest donor to China despite the Chinese recently surpassing Japan as the world’s second-largest economy.
BEIJING – China spent tens of billions of dollars on a dazzling 2008 Olympics. It has sent astronauts into space. It recently became the world’s second largest economy. Yet it gets more than $2.5 billion a year in foreign government aid – and taxpayers and lawmakers in donor countries are increasingly asking why.
With the global economic slowdown crimping government budgets, many countries are finding such generosity politically and economically untenable. China says it’s still a developing country in need of aid, while some critics argue that the money should go to poorer countries in Africa and elsewhere.
The “developing country” excuse gets old after you become the second-largest economy in the world. Especially when countries actually in need of financial assistance — countries that don’t have expensive space programs and massive face-saving projects — receive less money:
Aid to China from individual donor countries averaged $2.6 billion a year in 2007-2008, according to the latest figures available from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Ethiopia, where average incomes are 10 times smaller, got $1.6 billion, although measured against a population of 1.3 billion, China’s share of foreign aid is still smaller than most. Iraq got $9.462 billion and Afghanistan $3.475 billion.
But at least the United States isn’t giving money to China, right? Well, we gave $65 million in foreign aid to Beijing in 2008. Apparently the only reason we didn’t give more was because we maintain some sanctions against China for its violent 1989 crackdown in Tienanmen Square.
Asked why China still needed foreign aid after making so much economic progress, the Commerce Ministry said that China remains a developing country with 200 million poor and big environmental and energy challenges.
Then maybe Beijing shouldn’t be putting on flashy Olympics ceremonies, funding building projects intended to become global landmarks, and handing out billions of dollars in foreign aid to its own allies. Instead, spend on the money on pulling those 200 million poor out of poverty. If Beijing won’t though, why should Japan or Britain?