What is new in the white paper on international development cooperation?

What is new in the white paper on international development cooperation?

Xiuli Xu, Global Times (originally published in Chinese), 11 January 2021

On 10th January 2021, the third white paper on China’s foreign aid and international development cooperation in this new era was published. It is the first time the white paper has been published under the name of ‘international development cooperation’ rather than ‘foreign aid’, and it revealed the core concepts, policies, progress of the action, and future prospects. There is novelty in this paper which is worth discussing.

Firstly, the paper highlights the high attention which the Chinese government paid to the global development challenges, and a strong willingness to contribute with wisdom and solutions. There are three current global development trends. First, the world has become an increasingly connected global community, of which none will stand alone. It’s a result of the mutual effects of population mobility and global supply chain under globalisation since the 1980s. Second, the challenges confronted at a global level are intensifying, seen from the crises of finance, public health, and disasters, etc. Third, deficiency of the global public goods supply reflects from peace development, governance mechanism, and the gap between different regions, nations and cultures.

Against this backdrop, China has initiated new South-South cooperation resources, platforms as well as development experiences in contributing to dealing with global development challenges including the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), and the Fund for South-South Cooperation. This paper lays out the cultural and philosophical roots of China’s international development cooperation in the very beginning, and this echoed in the end with the affirmation that China will always contribute to peace, development, and defending international order through international development cooperation

Secondly, the paper presents the transition from foreign aid to international development cooperation in China’s context. The establishment of the China International Development Agency (CIDCA) in 2018 implies the formal transition of China’s foreign aid to international development cooperation. A series of achievements in facilitating this transition, presented in this paper, stresses this leap of development. Firstly, the alignment of China’s fragmented South-South cooperation initiatives and resources at the national level to bring various efforts in different ministries. Secondly, it pays more attention to global platform alignment in contributing to building up a community with a shared future by integration of multilateral mechanisms, as well as various traditional international cooperation platforms. Thirdly, the innovative development modalities and expanded new cooperation partners, particularly with multilateral organisations, as well as the College of South-South Cooperation and Development, and the Fund for South-South Cooperation, are increasingly concerned.

Thirdly, the paper reveals China’s efforts in pursuing better communication with the international community. Several strands can be found for this purpose. The first is demonstrating China as an active participant in response to the UN 2030 agenda. The 2030 sustainable development agenda is recognised as a global language in achieving development goals. China takes this opportunity to elaborate how it has contributed, and would like to continue to contribute to, poverty elimination, food security, health development, quality education, gender equality, sustainable economic growth, and eco-environmental protection. Secondly, by introducing the Belt and Road Initiative and corresponding practices into international development cooperation discourses, it enriches the international development cooperation policies, practices and narratives. Additionally, persisting in its nature of South-South cooperation, the paper emphasises China’s development cooperation aims of “teaching people to fish rather than giving them fish” through continuing to work with developing countries to improve their capabilities in development planning, implementation, and to stimulate their industrial processes, while maintaining its humanity-centered characteristics.


XU Xiuli, Professor of College of Humanities and Development Studies, Dean of the College of International Development and Global Agriculture at China Agricultural University, Beijing, China.

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