New aid agency to facilitate China's great-power diplomacy strategy
As part of the restructuring plan of the State Council, China's cabinet, announced during the annual session of the NPC, a state-level International Development and Cooperation Agency (IDCA) is to be established to integrate foreign aid functions of the Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

With rapid economic growth and rising profile on the global stage, the new agency sends a signal China aims to raise its profile on the global stage and is ready to take on international responsibilities of big powers.

Wang Yiwei, the director of the Institute of International Affairs of Renmin University, told he's not surprised by the proposal to create the new agency. “The Chinese government has long considered setting up an independent foreign aid agency. In the past, the role was played by multiple departments, so policies rolled out tended to be not transparent and could hardly be coordinated. This may lead to misunderstandings,” he said.

Now, the timing is ripe. According to the State Council's restructuring plan, the new agency charged with foreign aid would report to it directly. “This will greatly enhance efficiency and better serve the Belt and Road Initiative,” said Wang, noting the establishment of the agency constitutes a part of China's great-power diplomacy strategy.

Last November, China's State Council Information Office issued a white paper on the right to development, detailing the country's philosophy, practice and contribution in this regard. It also noted that over the past six decades, the country had provided aid to 166 countries and international organizations worth nearly 400 billion yuan.

In the next five years, China will implement six "One Hundred Programs" targeting developing countries -- namely 100 poverty reduction programs, 100 agricultural cooperation programs, 100 trade aid programs, 100 eco-protection and climate change programs, 100 hospitals and clinics, and 100 schools and vocational training centers. One hundred and twenty thousand training opportunities in China and 150,000 scholarships will be made available to developing countries. A grant of $2 million will be made to the UN's World Health Organization.

The move has attracted attention of foreign media. Washington Post reported that the new department in China is similar to the U.S. Agency for International Development. Developed countries usually set up this kind of foreign aid agency, and as China has been developing quite fast, it's also necessary for the country to have such an agency.

Some media questioned if China is engaging in the work to compete with the US. Like Rex Tillerson, who just stepped down as the US secretary of state, said during his visit to African countries that accepting Chinese money may bring risks of losing sovereignty.

Wang Yiwei emphasized the Belt and Road Initiative aims to forge a “community of common destiny” and China's foreign aid efforts will not only expand the country's diplomatic influence but also benefit recipient countries. 

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