Xue Gong

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Jul 19, 2021

Recently, the Chinese government released the White Paper on China’s International Development Cooperation, considered as a response to the international pushbacks resulting from the Chinese aggressive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The White Paper clearly aims to address international concerns such as transparency, project ownership, and financing efficiency. Based on the above, this paper aims to address the question: why did China modify its international development cooperation, and to what extent will this modification make a difference? The paper argues that, by reshaping the narratives of the BRI as a public good for development, China aspires to achieve two major goals: continuing international integration to serve both domestic and international markets and setting international standards. It further argues that China’s modifications in improving transparency, returning project ownership to local governments, and financing efficiency of its overseas financing show that the international pressure works. Nonetheless, this is not to suggest that extreme pressure would fundamentally change China’s behaviour. Modifications of China’s international development cooperation show China’s gradual recognition of international norms and standards, especially through the engagement with multilateral mechanisms. In a context where geopolitical rivalry prevails on state-to-state relations, perhaps, development cooperation and engagement through multilateral mechanisms is a good start to depoliticize the tension.

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