China unveils new mechanism to further boost $900 billion Belt and Road initiative

China unveils new mechanism to further boost $900 billion Belt and Road initiative

BEIJING - China is setting up a new agency that will channel foreign aid and plan strategic projects related to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) - President Xi Jinping’s signature connectivity initiative to industrialise Eurasia.

The formation of the State International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDCA) is part of a massive institutional revamp, to steer China’s ongoing transition, marked by domestic reform and deeper engagement with the rest of the world, led by the Communist Party of China (CPC).

The SIDCA will be answerable to the State Council, China’s cabinet, led by Prime Minister Li Keqiang. It integrates roles which were earlier fragmented between the foreign and commerce ministries.

SIDCA’s focus will be to “better serve the country’s global strategy and to build the Belt and Road Initiative”, the State Council said.

The US$900 billion BRI aspires to recreate and expand the old Silk Road trading routes between Asia, Europe and Africa.

The State-run news agency Xinhua reported that the new agency “will be responsible for making strategic guidelines, plans and policies on foreign aid”. It will also be involved in making “foreign aid plans and overseeing and evaluating their implementation,” it observed.

The decision, which is pending final approval during the ongoing session of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s parliament, is in tune with Beijing’s emergence as a global aid donor, nearly at par with the United States.

According to a study by U.S.-based AidData, released in October, China pitched $350 billion in foreign aid and other forms of State financing in five major regions of the world, between 2000-14.

The U.S. overseas aid in the same period was marginally higher at $394.6 billion. But China could catch up soon as it started becoming a serious aid donor only in 2009.