Chinese Aid in Africa: Attitudes and Conflict
53 Pages Posted: 17 May 2019
Date Written: May 7, 2019
Chinese development projects in Africa are often portrayed as exploitative, self-serving and conflict provoking. In this paper we answer the question of whether Chinese aid in Africa really does affect conflict and changes attitudes towards China. We combine geo-located information on the number, size and type of Chinese aid projects between 2000 and 2012 with panel data on conflict on the African continent to estimate the impact of the presence of Chinese development projects on violence at the district level. We also exploit a large cross-sectional data set about Africans' attitudes towards China from the 6th wave of the Afrobarometer survey to differentiate between two possible mechanisms: conflict as a competition for resources or conflict as a result of cultural animosity towards China. We use two types of instrumental variables to argue for a causal relationship. In line with the previous literature, we find that the presence of aid projects increases conflict, particularly civilian riots, in Western, Eastern- and Southern African districts. However, we also show that aid projects with no physical Chinese presence (purely financial flows, such as budget support) are the driver behind the increase in conflict, which is suggestive evidence for the rent-seeking channel. Moreover, we do not find that the presence of aid projects provokes a particular hostility towards China. Districts with more Chinese aid projects in the previous 15 years do not hold more unfavorable views towards China than districts with fewer projects.
Keywords: aid, conflict, attitudes, China
JEL Classification: F35, Z18
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