Skip to navigation – Site map

HomeIssues2020/4Special FeatureThe Aid-Contracting Nexus: The Ro...

Special Feature

The Aid-Contracting Nexus: The Role of The International Contracting Industry in China’s Overseas Development Engagements

Hong Zhang
p. 17-27

Abstract

Commercial interests in China’s foreign aid projects are widely recognised in the literature. Yet, the role of the Chinese companies involved in such activities remains understudied. Piecing together information from primary sources, this article retells the story of China’s overseas development engagements from the perspective of China’s international contracting industry, the history of which is closely intertwined with China’s foreign aid practices. Identified by the state to be a strategic vehicle for exporting Chinese labour, industrial products, technology, management skills, and capital, international construction contractors (ICECs) have received substantial policy support and have grown into prominent multinational corporations with global footprints. I use the concept of the “aid-contracting nexus” to highlight the linkage between China’s economic diplomacy and domestic economic development strategy. The “aid-contracting nexus” provides a critical lens for analysing China’s overseas development engagements, including why it has focused primarily on infrastructure, and the conceptual confusion over China’s development finance. This analysis also speaks to the popular accusations that Chinese lending practices are predatory or “debt-trapping” by underscoring mercantilist logic as an alternative explanation. The evolving business model if ICECs is likely to pose new challenges for China’s foreign relations.

Top of page

Editor's notes

Manuscript received on 2 October 2019. Accepted on 14 August 2020.

Excerpt

Full text document will be published online on December 2021.

Outline

Introduction
Aid-contracting nexus: The rise of China’s international contracting industry
Powerful national champions
Blurring the line between aid and other finances
From builders to developers
Conclusion and discussion
Primary sources

First lines

Introduction

That China’s foreign aid has been largely driven by its commercial interests is widely recognised in the literature (Woods 2008; Tan-Mullins, Mohan, and Power 2010; Brautigam 2011; X. Li et al. 2014; Johnston and Rudyak 2017; D. Zhang and Smith 2017; M. Chen 2018; Morgan and Zheng 2019). The commercial turn followed a period of foreign aid provision largely motivated by ideological and geopolitical considerations during Mao Zedong’s rule (1949-1976) and took shape when Deng Xiaoping’s leadership (1978-1980s) placed China’s domestic economic development firmly at the centre of the policy agenda. The commercial orientation was further amplified in the 1990s as a result of China’s aid reform and the “Going out” (also known as “Going global”) policy (Johnston and Rudyak 2017; Morgan and Zheng 2019). Nowadays, China’s foreign aid is so closely linked with its trade and investment activities that it is believed to be re-defining international development cooperation (Gu et al....

Top of page

References

Bibliographical reference

Hong Zhang, « The Aid-Contracting Nexus: The Role of The International Contracting Industry in China’s Overseas Development Engagements », China Perspectives, 2020/4 | 2020, 17-27.

Electronic reference

Hong Zhang, « The Aid-Contracting Nexus: The Role of The International Contracting Industry in China’s Overseas Development Engagements », China Perspectives [Online], 2020/4 | 2020, Online since 01 December 2021, connection on 11 May 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/chinaperspectives/11124 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/chinaperspectives.11124

Top of page

About the author

Hong Zhang

Hong Zhang is a PhD candidate in public policy at Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University, United States.hzhang14@masonlive.gmu.edu

Top of page

Copyright

© All rights reserved

Top of page
  • Logo CEFC – Centre d’études français sur la Chine contemporaine
  • OpenEdition Journals
Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search