NPR

Find Out Some (But Not All) The Secrets Of China's Foreign Aid

More than 100 researchers spent five years poring over documents to come up with data about how much is spent — and on what.
Workers from a Chinese engineering company erect the African Union conference center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2010. China paid for the $200 million building as a gift to African Union. / SIMON MAINA / Getty Images

For a long time, China's foreign aid spending was best described in the words of Winston Churchill: "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma." The country withholds information from the public because it is considered a state secret.

China joins countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela who collectively spend billions of dollars on overseas development each year but provide little to no information about where the money goes.

A new report lifts the shroud of secrecy.

What did we learn about Chinese development spending?

The report, published by AidData a research lab based at the College of William & Mary, finds that China spent $362.1 billion over the 15-year period from 2000 to 2014 — a figure approaching the $424.3 billion spent by the U.S. over that same time frame. In fact, China now outspends the U.S. on an annual basis.

The new data shows that Chinese funds went to more than 4,300 projects in 140 countries

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