Returning a favor of a drop of water with a spring
Editor's Note: Why is China helping other countries with investments and loans and other forms of financial assistance? The obvious answer is to help them develop their economies and improve their people's livelihoods. But there is another, more important reason behind that, as a senior journalist with China Daily explains in the first of a series of commentaries.
Being the world's second-largest economy, China's presence in other countries is, understandably, increasing in the form of investment, aid and loan. Official data released early this year show that despite the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy, China's direct overseas investment increased 3.3 percent year-on-year to $132.9 billion last year.
And a State Council Information Office white paper published in January showed that from 2013 to 2018, China gave 270.2 billion yuan ($41.98 billion) of foreign assistance－in grants, interest-free loans and concessional loans－with grants to developing countries to improve social welfare comprising 47.3 percent of the total.
While the developing countries have welcomed China's investment and assistance, some Western politicians and news media, either out of misunderstanding or ill-will, have been claiming the loans are in reality "debt traps" for the recipient countries, and accusing China of being a "neocolonialist" or "neoimperialist" power.
Surprisingly, some of those politicians belong to countries that until five or six decades ago were major colonial and imperial powers. Some of them have colonies even today and continue to bully small and poor countries, many of them former colonies, by threatening them with sanctions, even wars.
Having suffered the consequences of occupation by colonial powers, including humiliation, China will never seek to occupy the territories of or colonize other countries. On the contrary, China has always been willing to help other developing countries.
Cooperation and mutual support have helped strengthen the friendship between China and other developing countries, especially African countries. However, being averse to unconditional cooperation and suffering from a colonial hangover, some Western observers cannot understand China's support to other developing nations. For them, cooperation is a trick and unselfish assistance a mirage.
There is a need therefore to shrug off those Western politicians' criticisms, especially because it's well nigh impossible to reason with people who would find fault with whatever China does. As for those who have been misled by the news media, they ought to seek the help of the tomes of books on China to better understand the philosophy behind China's cooperation with other developing countries.
Chinese civilization, the only civilization to develop uninterrupted for 5,000 years, is greatly influenced by Confucianism and Taoism. It treasures the ideal of universal harmony and respects the principles of good neighborliness and good relations with all countries, and advocates cooperation and mutual help.
As a nation, China believes in tou tao bao li (repaying kindness with kindness). A favor for getting a drop of water in need should be returned with a spring indeed－this saying has been taught to Chinese children for hundreds of years. For instance, in the early years of the founding of the People's Republic, the Soviet Union helped China with 156 big projects which, in fact, laid the foundation for the country's industrialization. Despite the ups and downs in bilateral relations in later years, China never forgot the help the Russians provided in its hour of need.
Besides, in the 1970s, when the United Nations deliberated on the PRC's demand to assume its rightful and lawful seat in the UN, it was the undaunted efforts and votes of the developing countries, especially the African countries, which "carried us into the United Nations". The Chinese people have always been grateful to those developing countries and what they are doing now for the people in African countries is "repaying" their "kindness".
Returning favor is but one side of the story. China has no interest in becoming a colonial or imperial power by investing in other countries, and offering them loans and other types of financial assistance. Instead, unlike the practice of some Western countries and international organizations, China's investments, loans and assistance come without any strings attached.
Such investments, loans and assistance have helped develop the local economies, create more jobs and improve local people's lives, and thus expanded the consumption market, benefiting both China and the recipient countries and strengthening economic globalization, from which China has benefited immensely.
As another Chinese saying goes, a man of noble character is keen on acquiring wealth but acquires it fairly.
The author is former deputy editor-in-chief of China Daily.