BEIJING (Reuters) - China plans to set up an international development cooperation agency to better coordinate foreign aid and promote its ‘Belt and Road’ initiative, State Councillor Wang Yong said on Tuesday.
The new agency will be responsible for forming policies on foreign aid, as well as granting aid and overseeing its implementation, according to a parliamentary document released earlier in the day.
“This will allow aid to fully play its important role in great power diplomacy... and will better serve the building of the ‘belt and road’,” Wang told parliament.
The new agency will work directly under the State Council, China’s cabinet, and will combine the overseas aid related responsibilities of the ministry of commerce and foreign affairs, Wang said.
The Belt and Road initiative refers to President Xi Jinping’s landmark scheme to build a new Silk Road, connecting China to Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond.
The new agency will be formed as part of a broad reshuffle of government departments that China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament will formally approve on Saturday.
A new state immigration administration agency responsible for border control, repatriating illegal immigrants and managing foreigners and refugees would also be set up under China’s Ministry of Public Security, Wang said.
China has only occasionally provided details of its foreign aid programme in recent years.
The last time it did, in a policy paper released in 2014, it said more than half of China’s foreign aid of more than $14 billion (£10 billion) between 2010 and 2012 went to Africa, underscoring Beijing’s interest in the resource-rich continent to fuel its economy.
It provided no breakdown of aid recipients or any yearly figures. In 2011, China put its total foreign aid over the past six decades at 256.29 billion yuan (£29.1 billion).
An analysis by AidData, a research lab at William Mary University in the U.S. state of Virginia, found that official Chinese development assistance from 2000 to 2014 totalled $81 billion, with Cuba receiving the most aid.
Overseas aid provided by the United States over the same period was $366 billion, AidData said.
Much of China’s overseas finance is made in the form of loans or export credits, which allow infrastructure-for-resource deals.
This approach gives China an advantage over the United States in Africa, the official China Daily said on Tuesday in an editorial on U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to the continent.
“China has been working for years to try to meet Africa’s needs, helping African countries build railways, bridges and ports,” the newspaper said.
“That is why most African countries have sought to forge a partnership with China,” it said.
Some Chinese projects have attracted attention for China’s support of governments with poor human rights records and lack of transparency, such as Zimbabwe, Sudan and Angola.
China will host a once-every-three-years summit with African leaders in Beijing in September.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Christian Shepherd; Editing by Paul Tait & Simon Cameron-Moore