Thursday, February 15, 2007

Rogue development aid - International Herald Tribune

Very good article and one that I seriously hope the author (who is Editor in Chief of Foreign Policy i.e. the glossy and prettier sister of Foreign Affair) will expend in an upcoming issue.

There is a a much more self-interested side to developmental aid and that is of Dollar Diplomacy. It needs to be emphasized that many nations partake in it, whether it is as a gifter or as a partaker. The issue is fairly complex and I think I'm generally on balance not in opposition to the concept insofar as it is an instrumentalist functional concept.

The problem is that such instrumental formalist structures are not just tools or procedural. There is a substantive component wherein it codifies and stratifies existing power structures. So for example, the rule of law (or by law) can end up entrenching the status quo which can be massively detrimental or unfair to whichever or whoever is the downtrodden e.g. all contracts are to be enforced and any law that infringes on contracts will be struck down will hurt parties with less bargaining power and as time goes on see a concentration of power in those with existing power because the law will not remedial or even allow for a remedial of such a situation.

Therefore the issue and I think one that comes out fairly clearly in the article is whether the state giving the aid has its self-interest aligned with that of the interest of the developing state and whether those interests are in line with the global interest.

Say what you will about the US as a hegemon, I can scarcely see how China could not be worse and this is a good example why. They don't see it in their self interest to align themselves with the global long term interest. In essence, they are exhibiting the very worst of neo-imperialism and the sort of activity during the Cold War where one supported any state that opposed the other side no matter how antithetical they might be to your side i.e. the enemy of my enemy is my friend....even if he would otherwise be my enemy.

So what we have here is China essentially buying access to natural resources through offering aid without strings. So here's the money, do what you want, we don't care about the corruption or that it will not benefit your citizens, now where's our contract? At least the EU and US appears to care and the fact is, they generally do. Onerous as these strings maybe (and stupid like in the case of the global gag rule), the general rule is that they seek not to enrich the ruling elite but a genuine concern with ensuring the project succeeds, thereby helping the citizens those projects are supposed to help.

Or to put it even more simply, I don't trust China's interests.

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