Insider Perspectives on Chinese Aid with Hongbo Ji and Denghua Zhang

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Interview article written by Rachel Mason Nunn, Good Will Hunters Podcast. The original article and podcast can be found HERE

Welcome to Episode 80 of Good Will Hunters from the Development Policy Centre. The focus of today’s episode is Chinese Aid, with our guests Ji Hongbo and Denghua Zhang.

China’s aid has been on the rise for years, not only in the Pacific, but around the world. And with China-US rivalry taken to a new level as a result of COVID-19, China’s aid is set to become more important and more controversial than ever.

We often hear from experts on China about Chinese aid, but rarely from Chinese experts themselves. Yet given China’s complexity, not to mention the language barriers, hearing from those who understand the country and its systems is obviously critical

In this episode I chat with two experts who have both worked in the past for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ji Hongbo is the Asia Foundation’s Country Representative in China, in Canberra for the year at the ANU, but normally based in Beijing. Hongbo’s prior experience includes 5 years of diplomatic experience with China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including an assignment to the Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations in New York.

Denghua Zhang is a Research Fellow in the Department of Pacific Affairs at the ANU. He completed his PhD on Chinese Foreign Aid and Trilateral Aid Cooperation in 2017, and recently released a book with ANU Press titled ‘A Cautious Approach: China’s Growing Trilateral Aid Cooperation’. You can access it here.

Hongbo and I discuss China’s approach to international aid and development, including their focus on bilateral engagement over trilateral or multilateral engagement. We also discuss the rise of NGOs in China, and the independence of these NGOs as they attempt to implement government-funded projects. We discuss what traditional donors can learn from China and vice versa. Lastly we discuss how Chinese aid is responding to Covid-19.

Denghua and I discuss China’s approach to the Pacific, and why China is so interested in the Pacific. We address claims of debt-trap diplomacy and deepening military and security ties. We also discuss whether China can realistically collaborate with Australia on aid delivery on an ongoing basis.

In this episode you’ll hear some real insider perspectives on Chinese aid. It’s a rare opportunity, and I hope it promotes the sort of understanding we’re going to need as a globe if we are to successfully navigate China’s rise to superpower status.

For more coverage of Chinese aid to the Pacific, including articles by Denghua and Hongbo, visit the Devpolicy blog at Recent articles on Chinese aid include:

You’d also be aware that the Government released a strategy a few days ago, outlining Australia’s response to Covid-19 in the region. We’ll be bringing you more coverage and analysis of that soon.

The GWH Team

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