Friday 30 March 2018

Chinese aid: not a bad thing

There's a lot to criticise about the One Belt One Road (AKA BRI) initiative. Particularly concerning is the way in which countries like Laos are apparently being saddled with large sums of debt for the construction of projects, largely by Chinese companies using Chinese resources, which will not benefit the country in a way proportionate to the cost of them.

It is however worth emphasising that Chinese aid is generally a good thing, that it has aided countries in need and helped boost growth. Here's a recent Washington Post piece pointing out the benefits that Chinese official aid (ODA, as opposed to more commerically motivated aid) has brought:

AidData's research has shown when Chinese funding is similar to ODA, it boosts economic growth in recipient countries just like Western aid. If a country is on the receiving end of such a Chinese aid project, it will see 0.4 percent average growth two years after the project is committed — a similar rate of growth to aid from the United States and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (and notably higher than aid from the World Bank).
Indeed, as the WaPo story points out, if anything the PRC government is guilty of hindering the spread of the good news about this by surrounding aid in secrecy.

Sunday 11 March 2018

So much for "internal democracy"

The idea that China did have a form of democracy, albeit one contained within the Chinese Communist Party, is often spoke about, particularly in response to criticism of the undemocratic nature of Chinese governance. Here's an example from a 2017 editorial in the Global Times:
"China has established its own democratic system with Chinese characteristics in its pursuit of national independence and prosperity, and social progress, a fruitful result of its democratic building that has been deeply influenced by the country's historical and cultural traditions and domestic conditions."
 The reality? Well, let's look at yesterday's vote on whether or not to extend Xi Jinping's rule potentially for life:
"Applause rippled through the auditorium as Xi cast his vote, using two hands to place a salmon-coloured ballot into a bright red box at 3.24pm. A further 2,957 ballots were cast in favour of the change while three delegates abstained and two voted against, a small hint of the outrage the move has caused in some liberal circles."
 This gets even worse when you consider that the single vote against confirming Xi as leader for the next five years in 2013 may well have been his own, cast in an effort to make the vote look more democratic. The two votes against here may have been cast with similar intent.

"Internal democracy" should join the other theories about high-level Chinese governance for which there is no actual indisputable on-the-ground-evidence.