China is commonly depicted as a "rogue" donor, using aid to further its own interests abroad and secure access to natural resources. Especially China’s involvement in African countries has been criticized for being guided by self-interest rather than recipient need or merit. For the period 2000-2012, we compare China’s aid allocation behaviour to that of the five largest donor countries globally: France, Germany, Japan, the UK, and the USA. We use regression analysis and a rigorous variance decomposition method to measure the importance of various factors in predicting aid commitments. We find that donors differ markedly in how they allocate aid. While Germany, Japan, the USA, and the UK assign high importance to recipient need, France’s and China’s allocation models are, for a large part, driven by variables that relate to self-interest: trade in the case of France, and the adherence to the "One-China policy" in the case of China. However, China is not a purely selfish donor. As most Western donors, China commits more aid to poorer countries. Furthermore, we find no evidence that commercial interests, such as trade or access to natural resources, determine Chinese aid allocation. This latter result contrasts with Western donors, which allocate more aid to their trade partners. France and the UK also commit significantly more aid to their former colonies. In conclusion, the claim that China’s aid allocation is different must be qualified.
The study made use of a dataset published by Axel Dreher and Andreas Fuchs - also members of the Research Group on Development Economics - together with Brad Parks, Austin M. Strange and Michael J. Tierney in the article "Apples and Dragon Fruits: The Determinants of Aid and Other Forms of State Financing from China to Africa".