China has been donating a lot to Third World nations in recent years, spending tens of billions of yuan each year. The move has stirred public outcry at home, with some Chinese wondering aloud that “many people in China are still poor, but the government takes our money to Africa instead.”
Using financial aid to buy foreign relations is nothing new, but in China’s case, it is sometimes not only ineffective, but embarrassing too.
Zimbabwe in southern Africa is one example.
The country is one of the top recipients of Chinese donations. However, that has sparked strong opposition within Zimbabwe against Chinese influence over the country’s economy and politics.
In a 2020 budget presentation unveiled last week, Zimbabwean Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube revealed that the country received a total of US$194 million from donor countries in the first three quarters of this year.
He said the US and Britain were the biggest donors in the nine-month period, providing US$50 million and US$41 million respectively, while Japan donated US$14.2 million, and Switzerland offered US$6.4 million.
China’s donation was only US$3.6 million according to the budget report.
Chinese embassy complained and said the actual figures should have been US$136 million.
The saga of massively understating China’s financial aid to the southern African nation remains unsolved. Some Zimbabwe politicians are questioning whether someone has embezzled the money.
Meanwhile, China demands explanations for the understating of financial support to Zimbabwe.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 22
Translation by Julie Zhu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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