Introduction: South–South Cooperation and Chinese Foreign Aid

  • Meibo Huang


Since the start of the twenty-first century, a group of emerging economies has become the backbone of South–South development assistance. The development assistance provided by these countries, which falls under the framework of South–South cooperation (SSC), has its own unique features. In order to enhance the effectiveness of South–South development assistance and to expand its impact on the international development assistance system, it is urgent and necessary for the providers of South–South development assistance to thoroughly study the concept, principles, methods, and effects, to sum up the experience and establish a system for SSC. However, most South–South donors have problems with unsatisfactory data systems and incomplete statistics, thus it is difficult for researchers to conduct empirical analyses on the scale, sector distribution, regional distribution, and effects of aid. The more appropriate and constructive research method at this stage is therefore case study. This book presents 15 cases of China’s foreign aid. Each of the 15 cases provides a concise introduction to the project and focuses on its characteristics and effects analysis, which reflects SSC principles, experience, and practice, as well as current problems and challenges faced by Chinese foreign aid. Through all these 15 cases, we can thoroughly discuss the concepts, principles, methods, and effects of South–South development assistance, thus providing evidence for the establishment of a South–South development assistance framework.


Providing Development Assistance Constructive Research Method South-South Development Trade Cooperation Zone Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) 
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South–South cooperation (SSC) originated in the 1950s. It can be broadly defined as cooperation at bilateral, multilateral, regional, or interregional levels that is initiated, organized, and managed by developing countries themselves, in order to promote political, economic, social, cultural, and scientific development.1 The United Nations Conference on Technical Co-operation among Developing Countries, held in Buenos Aires in 1978, clearly outlined SSC as consisting of technical and economic cooperation between developing countries.2 South–South development assistance refers to the development assistance provided to another developing country by a country of the global South. Since the start of the twenty-first century, a group of emerging economies (the BRICS countries) has become the backbone of South–South development assistance in the new era. The development assistance provided by these countries, which falls under the framework of SSC, has its own unique features regarding the scale of and approaches to aid, regional and sector distribution, aid channels and aid management, largely due to their differences in historical conditions, development situation, environment, and so on. However, some features are commonly seen in SSC.

With the start of the United Nations (UN) 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the goal of global development is shifting from poverty reduction to sustainable development. The Sustainable Development Goals, the higher goals set for all countries in the new era, touch on existing development problems; they place an emphasis on the balance between economy, society and environment, and work toward benefits for current and future generations.3 Sustainable Development Goal 17 highlights the importance of SSC and development assistance.4 For providers of South–South development assistance, it is urgent and necessary to thoroughly study the concept, principles, methods, and effects; to sum up the experience and establish a system for SSC; to enhance the effectiveness of South–South development assistance; and to expand the impact of South–South development assistance in the international development assistance system.

However, most South–South donors have problems with unsatisfactory data systems and incomplete statistics, thus it is difficult for researchers to conduct empirical analyses on the scale, sector distribution, regional distribution, and effects of aid. The more appropriate and constructive research method at this stage is, therefore, case study. Through this approach, we can thoroughly discuss the concepts, principles, methods, and effects of South–South development assistance, thus providing evidence for the establishment of a South–South development aid system.

Based on this approach, this book presents 15 cases of China’s foreign aid. Financial resources provided by China for foreign aid fall into three main types: grants, interest-free loans, and concessional loans; but all the aid projects presented here receive grants.

The cases represent four main types of aid (see Table 1.1): donating complete sets of equipment, technical cooperation, human resources development cooperation, and emergency-based humanitarian aid. Regarding regional distribution, Africa and Asia are the two continents receiving the most funds. For sector distribution, the focus is on infrastructure, agricultural assistance, and health care. Strictly speaking, the cases in Chaps.  15 and  16 (the Ethiopian industrial parks and the Zambia–China Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone) are examples of China’s foreign economic cooperation, not foreign aid.
Table 1.1

The case study projectsa


Aid modalityb

Aid areac

Aid fieldd

Tanzania–Zambia railway

Complete projects


Economic infrastructure

Technical cooperation

African Union Conference Center

Complete projects


Public facilities

Technical cooperation

Madagascar’s General Hospital

Complete projects


Medical and health care

Public facilities

China’s humanitarian assistance to Myanmar floods in 2015

Emergency humanitarian aid


Other (disaster relief)

China’s aid to Africa’s fight against Ebola

Emergency humanitarian aid


Medical and health care

Restoration of Angkor relics

Technical cooperation


Other (cultural relics protection)

Agricultural technology demonstration center in Tanzania

Complete projects



Technical cooperation

Human resource development cooperation

China–Tanzania Joint Learning Center

Technical cooperation



Human resource development cooperation

Papua New Guinea and Fiji juncao technical cooperation

Complete projects



Technical cooperation

China–Uganda South–South Cooperation project under Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Food Security Framework

Technical cooperation



Agricultural trilateral cooperation of FAO + China + host country

Human resource development cooperation



CGCOC Agriculture cooperation project (Nigeria) and Jiangxi Ganliang agricultural cooperation (Equatorial Guinea)

Technical cooperation



China-Mozambique agricultural technology demonstration center

Complete projects



Technical cooperation

Ethiopia Industrial Parks

Economic cooperation


Economic infrastructure

Zambia–China Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone

Economic cooperation


Economic infrastructure

Source: aPeople’s Republic of China (2011) White Paper: China’s Foreign Aid (2011) (Beijing: State Council Information Office).

bChina offers foreign aid in eight forms: complete projects, goods and materials, technical cooperation, human resource development cooperation, medical teams sent abroad, emergency humanitarian aid, volunteer programs in foreign countries, and debt relief

cThe recipients of China’s foreign aid cover most developing countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Oceania, and Eastern Europe

dChina’s foreign aid projects are oriented to agriculture, industry, economic infrastructure, public facilities, education, and medical and health care

Each of the 15 chapters contained in this book provides a concise introduction to the project and focuses on its characteristics and effects analysis, reflecting SSC principles, experience, and practice as well as current problems and challenges faced by Chinese foreign aid.

1.1 The Principles of South–South Cooperation and Chinese Foreign Aid

There are two main facets of South–South development assistance. It tends to be multifaceted, including development assistance provided bilaterally or multilaterally on grant or concessional terms, and other related economic and technical cooperation, such as trade, investment, capacity-building, technology, and knowledge transfer.5 On the other hand, South–South development assistance follows the principles of SSC, based on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, namely mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual nonaggression, noninterference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. These form the basis of the Ten Principles proposed at the Bandung Conference of 1955, also known as the principles of SSC. In short, these include adherence to respect for partners’ sovereignty, no attached political conditions, and an emphasis on mutual benefit and win–win cooperation, as well as promoting economic development on both sides.6 From all the 15 cases we have studied, China’s foreign aid has always followed the principles of SSC.

1.1.1 No Political Conditions Attached

No political conditions are attached to South–South development assistance, which is based on the diplomatic principle of noninterference in others’ internal affairs. Providers of North–South development assistance argue that political conditions attached to development assistance could promote recipient countries’ establishment of Western-style democracy and governance systems, and might be beneficial to the supervision of recipient countries’ use of aid funds. However, attached political conditions mean a loss of sovereignty for recipient countries and the violation of the demand-oriented principle. South–South development assistance providers tend to think that the complexity and dynamics of the development environment make it hard for donor countries to determine the development needs of recipient countries in a timely and comprehensive manner. From a static point of view, however, a country’s development is rooted in its environment, and attached political conditions might not be suitable for recipient countries. Also, from a dynamic point of view, after World War II, donor countries’ attached political conditions keep changing over time with donors’ changing conceptions of aid, which could potentially hinder recipient countries from formulating long-term development plans. Most of the cases in this book show that Chinese foreign aid upholds sovereign equality, attaches no conditions, and exerts no interference in others’ internal affairs. China does not take foreign aid as a means to interfere with other countries’ internal affairs or a way to seek political privileges.

First, the principle of sovereign equality. The Tanzania–Zambia Railway project demonstrates China’s foreign aid philosophy of equality and mutual benefit, set under the framework of SSC. The Chinese Government provides foreign aid and believes that foreign aid should be mutually beneficial rather than unilateral (Chap.  2). China also adheres to the principle of equality between responsibility and rights, e.g., in the China–Uganda SSC project, which emphasizes support for Uganda’s ongoing Development Strategy and Investment Plan and ensures that the priority areas of cooperation are consistent with the strategy in order to meet the country’s agricultural development needs (Chap.  11).

Second, the principle of attaching no political conditions. Take the Madagascar General Hospital project as an example, this project takes the form of nonreimbursable assistance provided by China to improve local people’s livelihood and promote local development. When negotiating the construction of this hospital, China did not make any political demand or attach any political condition for the aid project (Chap.  4). Likewise, China’s juncao7 technical cooperation with Papua New Guinea and Fiji did not attach any political conditions and the two recipient countries were not asked to meet any political criteria in order to receive development assistance (see Chap.  10). Project approval and implementation were based completely on the actual needs of the recipient countries. Learning from China’s development experience, the project was designed to help the recipient countries address development problems, taking aid effectiveness, rather than serving a political purpose, as the standard of success.

Finally, the principle of noninterference in others’ internal affairs. Take China’s aid to Cambodia as an example here. Since the two countries established diplomatic relations, China has not suspended its aid to Cambodia on grounds of either domestic changes in the Cambodian Government or serious economic difficulties faced by China at home. China never used its aid projects to intervene in Cambodia’s internal affairs or national governance (Chap.  7). China always follows the principle of “adhering to humanitarian assistance and opposing humanitarian intervention” in foreign humanitarian aid, which is consistent with China’s foreign aid policy of “noninterference in internal affairs,” and is the most essential characteristic of China’s foreign aid. This was fully reflected in China’s humanitarian assistance to Myanmar’s floods in 2015 (Chap.  5).

1.1.2 Mutual Benefit and Win–Win Cooperation

Reflected in the documents of the Bandung, Buenos Aires, Nairobi, Bogota, and Delhi SSC conferences, South–South development assistance places more emphasis on the principle of mutual benefit and win–win cooperation, corresponding to its wider range of development cooperation scope. South–South development assistance often focuses on the infrastructure and production (e.g. agricultural) sectors, and a commitment to promote bilateral trade, investment, and other business activities through aid.8 This characteristic of South–South development assistance aims to meet the interests of both donors and recipients. Take infrastructure assistance as an example, from the perspective of the recipient countries, infrastructure assistance could alleviate infrastructure shortages with positive effects on economic growth. In addition, the construction of infrastructure could help to cut the operating costs of trade and nontrade sectors, thus promoting the expansion of trade and investment to recipient countries. From the perspective of donor countries, countries in the South have more experience and cost advantages in infrastructure construction compared with other fields, and infrastructure assistance is conducive to the export of their overcapacity and experience. Therefore, focusing South–South development assistance on infrastructure construction is a better choice for both recipient and donor countries. For example, China’s long-term substantive or “hard” assistance to Cambodia has laid down a necessary foundation for Cambodia to develop its economy, and has improved its people’s livelihood, productivity, sanitation, and public health. In addition, bilateral trade and investment between these two countries were also promoted, and people-to-people exchanges between China and Cambodia are increasing (see Chap.  7).

1.2 The Experience and Practice of Chinese Foreign Aid

In order to improve the effectiveness of aid and ensure its sustainability, South–South development assistance has made useful explorations of long-term practices, taking unique approaches and accumulating rich experience. Three outstanding experiences and practices are described below.

1.2.1 Following the Principle of Ownership and Demand Orientation

In SSC, the principle of ownership means that development assistance is oriented toward the development of recipient countries, and that recipient countries should be in a dominant position at various stages of development assistance programs.9 The Buenos Aires conference set out nine goals for technical cooperation among developing countries, the first of which is to build recipient countries’ self-development capacity and ability to solve development problems through improving their creativity, on the premise of respecting the value, pursuits and special needs of developing countries themselves. It is pointed out in the documents of the Nairobi conference10 that aid should be provided to enhance development capacity and to solve the development problems faced by developing countries on the premise of meeting their needs. In the conference documents of the Bogota and Delhi conferences, the “demand-oriented” principle is emphasized further.11

The principle of ownership and demand orientation is fully interpreted in the practice of Chinese foreign aid. The construction of the African Union (AU) Conference Center addressed its long-term problem of the shortage of office facilities, which demonstrates China’s capability to provide local-based, demand-oriented tangible assistance to the recipient (see Chap.  3). China’s assistance to Cambodia focused largely on economic development and projects related to people’s living standards, and most of these projects were offered based on requests by the Cambodian Government. China’s assistance to Cambodia was driven by Cambodia’s demands and was aligned with Cambodia’s own development plans (see Chap.  7). The agricultural technology demonstration center project in the United Republic of Tanzania was also oriented to recipients’ needs, targeting mainly small farmers, and Chinese agricultural experts at the demonstration center adjusted the agricultural technology promoted to the farmers based on local conditions (Chap.  8). In the humanitarian aid provided to Myanmar, China also provided fast and effective assistance based on the needs and actual situation of the affected countries (see Chap.  5).

1.2.2 Emphasizing Technical Training and Capacity-Building

South–South development assistance also emphasizes strengthening the capacity of recipient countries in order to enable them to make their own decisions and to achieve sustainable development. In South–South development assistance, capacity-building is listed as one of the principles in the conference documents of the Buenos Aires, Nairobi, Bogota, and Delhi conferences.12

In the Tanzania–Zambia Railway project, the Chinese Government attaches great importance to training technical personnel for Tanzania and Zambia, aiming to help recipient countries to embark on the development path of self-reliance and independence (see Chap.  2). In the construction of AU Conference Center, Chinese workers taught local construction workers technologies by hand and helped them learn and increase their engineering knowledge and technologies. Following completion of the project, based on the AU’s requirements, China continued to dispatch technicians and provided two phases of technical cooperation. To support the AU Conference Center’s follow-up operation and maintenance, China continued to offer local personnel training for the management and operation of the Center (see Chap.  3). While installing the medical equipment for Madagascar’s General Hospital project, Chinese partners held on-site training of Madagascan technicians and equipment maintenance personnel to ensure that the Madagascan people would have the skills to operate the medical equipment provided by China. To ensure the sustainable development of the hospital project, in accordance with the requirements of the Madagascan side, the Chinese Government also decided to send a technical assistance group to the hospital in Madagascar. These experts provided technical guidance for the use and maintenance of equipment and shared China’s practical skills as well as experience in local personnel training, with a view to enhancing the recipient countries’ technical management level and ability for independent development (see Chap.  4). The project Restoration of Angkor relics also prioritized skills transfer and capacity development of local workers (Chap.  7). From the beginning of the project, the Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage adopted the principle of employing and training local workers as far as possible. This not only created employment opportunities for Cambodia but also enabled a number of local workers to gain experience and skills in heritage restoration.

In agricultural aid, China attaches importance to agricultural knowledge transfer with a focus on technology. China has a wealth of experience in rapid development from a backward agricultural country, and thus has unique advantages in agricultural technological cooperation with developing countries. China’s foreign aid to the agricultural technology demonstration center project in the United Republic of Tanzania involves a process of transferring agricultural development experience and knowledge to beneficiary (or recipient) countries (see Chap.  8). The China–Uganda SSC project under the Food Security Framework of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN effectively promoted dissemination of sustainable technologies with long-term benefits for local farmers, and the cooperation modes extended to the combination of “aid + cooperation” in order to enhance the recipient countries’ capacity-building and achieve the purpose of “teaching one how to fish instead of giving one a fish” (Chap.  11). To further promote China–Uganda trade and investment cooperation and achieve sustainable development, the China–Uganda SSC project (Phase II) has established project sites in the China–Uganda Agricultural Cooperation Industrial Park, and arranges agricultural experts in agricultural machinery, irrigation, and horticulture to provide technical support, greatly enhancing the influence of the SSC project in Uganda (see Chap.  11). The China–Tanzania Village-based Learning Center project attached importance to fostering recipients’ self-development capacities. The project placed local governments, professionals, village committees, and villagers in important positions throughout the process, and focused on villagers’ capacity-building, especially centering on village committees. For example, the local farmers and officials participated in design and decision-making as well as implementation of the project, and were organized to be trained in both Chinese and China–Tanzania agricultural technology demonstration centers. They were helped to build infrastructure such as village roads themselves, promoting self-development. Following this, the China–Tanzania joint research project went further than the Village-based Learning Center project and concentrated on establishing a university–local government–farmer cooperation mechanism in order to strengthen interactions. During the project, it changed the traditional assistance principal that long-term experts engaged in. The experts visited and trained locals on a regular basis, and also established a mechanism for daily communication between Chinese experts and local people to support project implementation, which not only reduced the cost but also helped the locals become masters of their own houses (Chap.  9).

1.2.3 Combining Development Assistance with Investment

Thus far, a consensus on the definition of “South–South development assistance” has not yet to be reached among assistance providers. But the broad range of cooperation areas under South–South development assistance can surely be identified. The Buenos Aires conference (1978) clearly outlined that SSC consists of technical and economic cooperation among developing countries, including trade, investment, aid, loans, technology and knowledge transfer, and capacity-building.13 According to funding level, South-South development assistance can be divided into three parts: official development assistance as defined by the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC), development financing activities that do not meet the concessional criteria of the DAC-defined official development assistance standard, and development-related trade and investment. South–South development assistance providers argue that a country’s long-term development should depend on its own capacity-building.14 The definition of development assistance should go beyond the traditional scope, including a general definition of development assistance and international trade and investment for mutual benefit (Chap.  14). The comprehensive approach of South–South development cooperation could provide more opportunities and choices for developing countries. In recent years, the wide range of cooperation approaches of South–South development assistance has been recognized by traditional donor countries to some extent; for example, “development beyond aid”15 was recently emphasized by OECD donor countries.

As a developing country and a provider of SSC, China provides foreign aid differently from countries providing North–South cooperation. Under the foreign aid philosophy of “aid + cooperation,” mutual benefit and mutual assistance have become the basic tenets of China’s foreign aid. China has adhered to the “mutual benefit and win–win cooperation” modality and tries hard to combine aid with trade and investment to promote projects’ sustainable development and to achieve benefits for both sides (see Chap.  11).

First, focusing on the promotion of sustainable development, in order to achieve sustainable development aid projects, China entrusted projects to Chinese enterprises and encouraged them to turn projects into commercial entities after the aid process ended, which is very different from the traditional donors’ approach. This has improved the effectiveness of aid to a certain extent and avoided projects being unsustainable. At the same time, recipient local governments and the Chinese Government set conditions or otherwise encouraged technology transfer and promotion in recipient countries by China’s foreign investment enterprises, which promoted public welfare and sustainable development. This is a new approach based on the experience of Chinese foreign aid history and domestic development experience, as well as the “going global” strategy (see Chap.  14). As the Government’s official agricultural aid project, the agricultural technology demonstration center project in the United Republic of Tanzania introduced marketing factors, and the enterprise, as the major party constructing and implementing the project, explored the future operation and business plan. Following a 3-year cooperation period, the sustainable development period required industrialized development based on project working, realizing the dual goal of profits for the enterprise and the project’s sustainable development and public welfare function (see Chap.  8). China’s Juncao Technical Cooperation aid projects in Papua New Guinea and Fiji emphasized technical cooperation, and carried out juncao mushroom cultivation technology research jointly with the recipient countries on the basis of aid. In addition, this project combined aid with the development of commercial investment, so as to improve the scale efficiency of the juncao project through enterprise operation (see Chap.  10). And in accordance with the principles of “mutual benefit, win–win cooperation and common development,” the China–Uganda SSC project followed the strategy of government setting the stage for enterprise in the development of service industries. Enterprises were encouraged that were able and willing to conduct agricultural investment in Uganda through the China–Uganda SSC project platform by means of organizing high-level visits with Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (see Chap.  11).

Second, regarding the goal of pushing enterprises to go global and achieve mutual benefits and win–win cooperation, China’s foreign aid has helped optimize the local investment environment significantly. Foreign aid funds and policies are utilized flexibly to explore coordination and combination between foreign aid, bank loans, and fund investment to promote agriculture going global with aid projects, and to improve sustainable development. The agricultural demonstration centers in Africa need to realize sustainable economic and social benefits. Based on the aid projects under construction and in operation, Chinese enterprises are guided to develop large-scale agricultural industrialization projects to transform aid projects into industrial projects and to expand fast channels and new ways of agriculture going global. As for the enterprises that have successfully implemented the strategy of going global, they can be entrusted to construct aid projects. In this way, aid projects can realize long-term sustainable development and form a new pattern of matching foreign aid with global enterprise, based on the experience and results achieved thus far (Chap.  13). The agricultural technology demonstration center project in Mozambique has explored an approach to sustainability through introducing several Chinese agricultural companies (including both state-owned and private companies) to invest. These companies have not only helped Mozambique to solve food production problems and promoted Chinese agricultural development experience and technology but also have helped promote their experimental products to local markets with the purpose of realizing the sustainability of China’s agricultural aid to Africa through public–private partnerships (see Chap.  14).

Foreign economic and trade cooperation zones are part of economic cooperation rather than foreign aid. Since 2006, the Chinese Government has been encouraging Chinese enterprises to set up economic and trade cooperation zones in other developing countries. Through making China’s capital, technology and experience take root and play a substantive role in recipient countries by guiding more Chinese enterprises to invest and set up factories there, it aims to fundamentally help recipient countries transform a resource advantage into a comparative and competitive advantage, to achieve economic autonomy and sustainable development as soon as possible (Chap.  16). The Ethiopia Eastern (Oriental) Industrial Zone (Chap.  15) and Zambia–China Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone (ZCCZ) (Chap.  16) are overseas economic zones approved by Chinese Ministry of Commerce. Each of them provides a larger platform for Chinese enterprises seeking investment opportunities abroad. The zones’ establishment is conducive to resource-sharing in information, facilities, and markets among enterprises producing similar products, which could cut down operational costs and be beneficial in improving the degree of investment concentration for investors. By improving the concentration of investment enterprises, the Ethiopia Eastern (Oriental) Industrial Zone and ZCCZ have provided opportunities for Chinese investors to create a complete overseas industrial chain or industrial cluster, achieving a synergistic or industrial cluster effect; to contribute to the market competitiveness of Chinese enterprises; and to reduce disorderly investment (see Chap.  16).

1.3 Challenges in Chinese Foreign Aid Management

In the long-term practice of development assistance, China’s South–South development assistance always adheres to its own principles, not only forming a unique approach but also accumulating rich experience. However, there are some deficiencies in China’s foreign aid management systems. And the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development puts forward some new requirements for South–South development assistance. This section draws lessons from the aid management experience of traditional donors in order to make Chinese foreign aid to achieve “development effectiveness” and “aid effectiveness” at the same time. How to fully assess and summarize the effectiveness and experience of South–South development assistance, build communication platforms and share experiences with other development partners is a challenge for South–South development cooperation in the new era. This book explores the experiences and unique practices of SSC through an analysis of Chinese foreign aid cases, which also could help to identify gaps in Chinese foreign aid management with traditional donors.

1.3.1 The Role of Nongovernmental Organizations Has Increased but Is Still Limited

Within South–South development assistance, the outcome documents of the Nairobi conference state that SSC encourages the participation of various parties and stresses that nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), private groups, academic institutions, and individuals should work with governments.16 The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda also encourages the international aid system to establish comprehensive partnerships among all participants including traditional donors, emerging donors, recipient countries, multilateral institutions, private sector, civil society groups, and so on. The responsibilities of these participants are different and they need to collaborate and stimulate one another to jointly push forward the process of assistance and development, so as to achieve international development goals as well as the harmonious and sustainable development of human society as a whole.

At present, the biggest player in most South–South development assistance is government, with only a few NGOs; and these participants lack experience in cooperating with NGOs to conduct development assistance. Compared with government channels, nongovernmental channels are more flexible and diverse, which makes assistance more accessible to the grassroots and directly beneficial to civilians.17 In future, the proportion of official development assistance will decrease, and NGOs such as civil society groups and the private sector will provide more funds to make up for the lack of public funds. Therefore, South–South development assistance providers should make related policies, attract more NGOs to participate in South–South development assistance, support them in playing a more important role in development assistance, and accumulate cooperation experience with NGOs.18

To promote agricultural development, in addition to intergovernmental aid, many other parties could play a positive role. By mobilizing various forces to get involved in the agricultural development of recipient countries, their development problems could be addressed more quickly. China’s Juncao Technical Cooperation aid projects in Papua New Guinea and Fiji show that in terms of agricultural assistance, China pays insufficient attention to the participation of a wide range of forces (see Chap.  10). We recommend that China should involve all stakeholders in aid project approval, implementation, and follow-up cooperation to guarantee the effectiveness of projects in the future. For instance, local governments can recommend suitable aid projects through close cooperation, whereas research institutes have a high level of capacity in experimental agricultural technology research and promotion. At the same time, agricultural technology companies can play an active role in the sustainability of agricultural assistance and simultaneously achieve their goal of going global by participating in aid.

The case of China’s aid to Africa’s fight against Ebola shows that China has started to make full use of nongovernmental channels to provide foreign humanitarian aid and carry out NGO-to-NGO work to make foreign aid felt among local people in recent years. During the Ebola outbreak, local Chinese-funded enterprises participated and played a role—Chinese workers were one of the few foreign groups that did not leave the infected area, and Chinese companies also made great contributions to the local fight against Ebola. Some Chinese companies, trade associations, the China–Africa Development Fund, and other agencies donated medical equipment, grain, oil and other food items, motorcycles, and cash to the local government. Other enterprises and organizations also contributed to the affected areas (Chap.  6). China’s humanitarian assistance to Myanmar floods in 2015 shows that in the field of foreign humanitarian aid, the government can incorporate qualified NGOs to its foreign humanitarian aid system, and encourage capable, responsible NGOs willing to provide foreign aid to “go global.” At the same time, the Chinese Government should encourage domestic NGOs to contact, communicate, and cooperate with local NGOs, so as to achieve good communication and promote friendship between both sides (see Chap.  5).

1.3.2 The Foreign Aid Management System Needs to be further Improved

In the twenty-first century, traditional donors mainly use the concept of “aid effectiveness” to evaluate their official development assistance, while most emerging donors emphasize the effects of development assistance on economic development, poverty reduction, employment, and so on, and pay more attention to “development effectiveness.” In the process of South–South development assistance in the future, emerging donors could combine both development effectiveness and aid effectiveness together,19 on the one hand regulating the process of aid management, and on the other hand placing due importance on the effects of development assistance. Emerging donors are not members of OECD/DAC, so these countries do not need to fully adopt all the standards and indicators for aid effectiveness, but they could absorb some of the useful contents to improve the management of South–South development assistance.

1.3.3 No Foreign Aid Laws Have Been Established

Most South–South aid countries have not yet established foreign aid laws. In 2014, China promulgated and implemented its first comprehensive regulations on foreign aid management, but this was not a law. It is urgent for South–South assistance providers to make related laws that reflect international trends and are also in agreement with national conditions. At the same time, assistance providers should set out systematically the strategies, policies, objectives, and priorities of foreign aid; raise the attention of various ministries to development assistance issues; and guide medium- to long-term development assistance work. From the perspective of recipient countries, the clarity of South–South development assistance donors’ aid concepts and policies could help them identify donors’ preferences regarding assistance fields, recipient countries, and so on, which would help both sides to carry out aid activities more effectively.

1.3.4 Reform of Aid Management Institutions Needs to Be Advanced

For the establishment of aid management institutions, donors in the South should become more scientific in their approach to development assistance and include all the necessary institutions.20 In 18 April 2018, the Chinese International Development Cooperation Agency was established to take charge of Chinese foreign aid, and coordinate more than 20 departments such as the Ministries of Commerce, Finance and Foreign Affairs. When development assistance needs the participation of multiple ministries, there will be many intersectional and overlapping elements in the aid activities of various ministries. An effective coordination agency could become a platform for activities such as sharing experiences and discussing complementarity. Efforts are also needed to strengthen the human resources capacity of foreign aid staff.21 In terms of human resources, the problem of Chinese foreign aid management lies in the lack of staff in development assistance institutions and the quality of personnel. As demonstrated by the agricultural technology demonstration center project in the United Republic of Tanzania, it is necessary to intensify the training and management of aid staff for better effectiveness, to improve their linguistic ability, and to increase their awareness and understanding of the cultures and customs of the beneficiary country (see Chap.  8).

1.3.5 Attention Is Needed to Monitoring and Evaluation of Aid Projects

The Bogota Declaration acknowledges the principle of mutual accountability, which means that all participants in development assistance should be equally responsible for their commitments.22 The implementation of this principle depends to a large extent on the degree of information disclosure in the process of development cooperation. The documents of the Nairobi conference state that the enforcement of mutual accountability and the improvement of transparency are necessary for the effectiveness of South–South development assistance.23 However, most South–South development assistance providers have problems such as an unclear definition of “aid,” the lack of a unified statistical standard, and less transparency in aspects such as data statistics and disclosure. The lack of a complete mechanism for development assistance supervision and assessment is not conducive to control of the overall schedule for development assistance and analysis of the problems that exist in the aid process. This makes it difficult to provide firm evidence for the effective promotion by South–South development providers of its partners’ development, and to ensure accountability to local citizens, development partners, and other stakeholders in development assistance, which may be detrimental to their aid experience.24 For Chinese foreign aid, it is necessary to establish a complete supervision and assessment system, and to implement results-based management through project feasibility analyses, supervision of the project implementation process, analyses of project results, and so on.25 As found by the agricultural technology demonstration center project in Tanzania (Chap.  8), it is important to strengthen research on the demand for and feasibility of a project before its implementation. Before selecting a project, the development targets of development partners need to be fully understood to ensure that aid projects conform to the overall development goals. After that, it is necessary to research the actual situation of corresponding projects of development partners, and to comprehensively grasp the natural environment, policies and laws, markets, fundamental facilities, and other conditions in the beneficiary country in order to make the project design fit more smoothly into the practical situation there. Based on this information, overall planning and systematic assistance should aim to maximize the synergistic effects of foreign aid. The agricultural technology demonstration center project in Tanzania shows the importance of the supervision and evaluation of aid projects, and of specific measures to improve supervision and assessment systems, to introduce more detailed indicators for supervision and evaluation and to establish information communication and feedback mechanisms among different government departments and enterprises, as well as monitoring and evaluation institutions. It is also necessary to analyze project performance and shortcomings based on the supervision and evaluation results, and then to establish and improve in–out mechanisms for the implementing enterprises.

1.3.6 International Coordination Needs to Be Strengthened

South–South development assistance providers need to strengthen their cooperation and communication with international organizations, traditional donors, and other non-DAC donors. They also need to participate actively in multilateral cooperation on international development and share aid experience and practice, in order to expand their influence in the field of international development assistance. The case of the humanitarian assistance to Myanmar floods shows that it is important to strengthen cooperation with international humanitarian aid agencies in order to make good use of international channels and resources. In this regard, we can learn from Japan’s experience of cooperating with international organizations and NGOs in disaster relief (see Chap.  5).

In recent years, Chinese foreign aid has started to pay attention to international coordination and cooperation. In the project Restoration of Angkor relics (see Chap.  7), China placed great emphasis on international cooperation and paid attention to coordination with other aid agencies. The international cooperation and coordination are not only about funds, technologies, skills, and sophisticated equipment but also about interpersonal exchanges and learning from each other’s differences.26 In the case of China’s aid to Africa’s fight against Ebola (see Chap.  6), China also emphasized international cooperation and coordination as well as the promotion of follow-up trilateral cooperation. The Chinese Government sent representatives to attend the United Nations Mission to deal with epidemic prevention and control missions of Ebola, and coordinated with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international organizations, actively supporting the UN and the WHO in fighting the epidemic. Reporting mechanisms were established with international organizations at all levels in order to achieve close communication. With the coordination of the UN and the WHO, under the premise of demand, agreement, and participation by the recipient countries, China cooperated with traditional donors such as the USA, the UK, and France in communication, epidemic analysis, staff training, detection and treatment, and information sharing, which promoted benign interactions among major countries.

In summary, to increase its international presence, South–South development assistance is faced with the following challenges: to consolidate the experience and results of South–South development assistance, to build platforms for experience sharing and exchange, and to participate widely in communication in the field of international development assistance. In September 2015, at the UN Headquarters in New York, President Xi Jinping stated that China would establish a knowledge center for international development for researching and sharing development theory and practices appropriate to countries’ national circumstances. On one hand, South–South development assistance providers need to carry out assessments on their own aid effectiveness to improve and consolidate their experiences and achievements. On the other hand, based on the development assistance practices of South–South development assistance donors, providers should put together a clear set of South–South development assistance concepts and develop a theoretical framework on South–South development cooperation. Such a framework should aim to clarify the definition of “South–South development assistance” and unify understanding of the term, to standardize aid data statistics and measurements so as to ensure the transparency and comparability of aid data produced by development assistance providers, and to establish cooperating and coordinating agencies of South–South development cooperation, like the OECD DAC, to coordinate and regulate South–South development cooperation. Against the backdrop of the Belt and Road initiative,27 and taking into account changes in the international situation, China should focus on constructing a legal system for development aid, improving aid agencies, constructing an aid management and evaluation system, and training foreign aid professionals.28


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meibo Huang
    • 1
  1. 1.International Development Cooperation AcademyShanghai University of International Business and EconomicsShanghaiChina

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