Chinese and U.S. Engagement with Developing Countries News Roundup: Jan. 1 – Jan. 29, 2021

Image: The New York Times

Every two weeks, The Carter Center’s China Program releases an overview of major events involving Chinese and U.S. global engagement, with a particular focus on emerging issues in Africa and Latin America. In addition to using news sources, the news roundup analyzes papers and reports from academic journals, governmental bodies, and NGOs, and also summarizes debates and other events organized by think tanks on select issues. The news roundup is intended to be a platform and resource for both China watchers and readers interested in political and economic development in developing countries. It aims to deepen the understanding of China’s foreign policy, and emerging issues and trends in developing countries, as well as to enhance the prospect of multinational cooperation among China, the U.S., Africa and Latin America. 

How successful has the rollout of the Chinese coronavirus vaccine in developing countries been? Why is the future of Chinese investment in Ethiopia at risk? What is the Chinese Communist Party’s vision for international development? Why is the nominee for ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield being criticized for her views on China? Learn the answers to these questions and more in this edition of the news roundup.

This issue is edited by Kathryn Putz.

News Articles

China Extends Debt Relief to DR Congo Amid COVID-19 Crisis

(Aljazeera, 6 January, 2021)

China has granted debt relief to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to help it overcome the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. This means the DRC will not have to repay its 53 interest-free loans from China, which, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University’s China Africa Research Initiative, have focused on the power, transport and mining sectors.

China Wanted to Show Off Its Vaccines. It’s Backfiring.

(New York Times, 21 January, 2021)

Officials in the Philippines, Brazil and Turkey have complained that Chinese companies have been slow to ship the doses and ingredients of its coronavirus vaccine. The few announcements that have trickled out suggest that China’s vaccines, while considered effective, cannot stop the virus as well as those developed by Pfizer and Moderna, the American drugmakers.

Disappointing Chinese Vaccine Results Pose Setback for Developing World

(New York Times, 13 January, 2021)

Scientists in Brazil expressed diminishing confidence in China’s coronavirus vaccine, saying CoronaVac only has an efficacy rate of just over 50 percent. The implications could be significant for a vaccine that is crucial to China’s global health diplomacy. At least 10 countries have ordered more than 380 million doses of CoronaVac, though regulatory agencies have yet to fully approve it. 

Opinion: Biden’s U.N. ambassador nominee to face criticism for past praise of China

(Washington Post, 27 January, 2021)

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. President Joe Biden’s nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, was criticized during her confirmation hearing over a 2019 speech given at a Confucius Institute at Savannah State University. Her speech praised China’s Belt and Road Initiative and expansion into African economic and cultural life. She also called for a “a win-win-win situation” in Africa, one in which the United States and China would cooperate to promote democratic values such as rule of law and gender equity. Several Senate aides said the speech was overly optimistic at a time when the U.S. was concerned by China’s growing presence in Africa.

Xi Jinping Sends a Warning to the U.S. at Davos

(Quartz, January 25, 2021)

In his recent address to the World Economic Forum, the annual meeting of global leaders in Davos, President Xi stressed the need for multilateral cooperation, strengthening of international institutions, and international aid for developing countries. Mr. Xi said developed countries should attempt to close the North-South gap: “The international community should keep its eyes on the long run, honor its commitment to provide necessary support to developing countries and safeguard their legitimate development interests.”

Papers and Reports

China’s International Development Cooperation in the New Era 

(Xinhua, 10 January, 2021)

China’s State Council Information Office recently issued a white paper titled “China’s International Development Cooperation in the New Era.” The paper updates two previous strategy documents and outlines Beijing’s ambitious plans to overhaul its current, rather limited, aid and development initiatives around the world. But the paper also makes it clear that the Chinese don’t have any plans to conform their new aid agenda to those of Western-led international organizations and donor states.


China Wants to Become a Major Player in International Aid

(SupChina Network, “The China in Africa Podcast,” 26 January, 2021)

Recently, China published a blueprint for how it plans to become one of the world’s leading countries in international and development. The new strategy talks about new “diverse forms” of aid and the integration of China’s development policies with other initiatives like the Belt and Road. Stella Hong Zhang, a PhD candidate at George Mason University in the United States, is among the world’s leading experts on Chinese international aid and development. She described the new white paper as a “landmark document” and discusses why she feels it’s so important.

Ethiopia and the Road Ahead

(Global Reporting Centre, “On China’s New Silk Road,” 18 November, 2020)

Chinese investment in Africa has built roads, railways, dams, and more, spurring new interest and competition from other global investors. Critics say China’s too often exploitative, including with loans that leave some countries too deeply in debt. But its investments helped famine-prone Ethiopia become one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Now, however, civil strife is putting that success at risk, for both Ethiopia and China. “On China’s New Silk Road” is produced by the Global Reporting Centre.