Author: Martyn Davies, Hannah Edinger, Nastasya Tay, Sanusha Naidu.
The Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University embarked on this research project
to gather information and gain insight into China’s aid policies vis-à-vis Africa. The research is
intended to inform both Chinese and traditional donor efforts toward the continent.
China’s “new foray” into Africa is attracting much international attention and contentious debate.
China is seemingly engaging Africa on new terms – terms that are not shaped by traditional
powers, nor perhaps even by Africans themselves. It represents a new approach to the continent
that the authors have termed China’s “coalition engagements” in Africa – a collaborative state-
business approach to foreign policy. China’s foreign aid forms an integral component of this
Chinese foreign policy towards Africa at the turn of the century underwent a dramatic shift. As
“China Inc.” started to internationalise after 1998, Africa became a strategic focus for Chinese
outward-bound companies, especially in the extractive industries. Beijing accorded
renewed importance. This resulted in the conceptualisation and creation of a new vehicle, the
Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) housed within the Ministry of Foreign
coordinate Chinese foreign policy objectives toward Africa.
Through FOCAC, China’s Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Commerce are starting to align
their respective responsibilities toward more effective coordination and implementation of a
Chinese foreign and aid policy toward Africa. This attempt at formulating a coherent foreign
policy between two government departments is playing out in Africa but this joint departmental
coordination is being made more difficult by the dramatic increase in aid spending by Beijing.
The government of the People’s Republic of China has a broad and, at times, vague definition
of what constitutes foreign aid. While there may be gradual alignment of Chinese aid with
the OECD-DAC’s definition of the constitution of “aid” over the medium term, some unique
components of China’s approach will remain. The monitoring of its aid commitments and their
implementation is proving difficult, even for the Ministry of Commerce, as well as government
China’s approach has been one of mutual respect, also awarding small African countries with
relatively little economic or political significance, with aid and investment support. However
, it is
likely that resource-rich countries such as Angola, Sudan, Nigeria and Zambia, as well as more
politically strategic countries, such as South Africa, Ethiopia and Egypt, are priority countries in
China’s broader African engagemen