Could cutting foreign assistance hurt U.S., help China?

April 1, 2011 By Jane Kaminski

As Congress contemplates cuts to the International Affairs Budget, a number of experts have noted China’s rapidly increasing foreign assistance programs.  Chinese foreign aid has swollen from $300 million in 2001 to more than $26 billion in the first 3 months of 2010 alone.  Michael Gerson observes that the focus in Chinese investment has not been to promote good governance, but to gain access to the resources by supporting local regimes, regardless of their policies.  China has focused heavily on resource-rich countries in Africa where they can gain access to natural resources and also sell cheap goods to new markets.

Emerging markets will reflect the values, structures, and preferences of the partners who helped them grow—that can be the United States or our economic competitors. By expanding its aid, China is gaining momentum as a preferred development partner as the United States risks faltering.   Cuts to U.S. contributions to multilateral development banks, for example, risk losing U.S. influence over setting priorities around the world, as well as its veto power.

Drastic cuts to the International Affairs Budget would devastate our ability to exert global leadership, reduce poverty, and promote good governance.  By having an established presence in these countries, the United States has the potential to influence governments and populations toward more democratic systems and strengthen the population through health care, economic development, and education.  U.S. foreign assistance strengthens its own economy as well by helping to open and strengthen emerging markets.

Especially in this time of political unrest around the world, it is in the United States’ best interest to remain the preferred development partner around the world.