RWR Data Shows Most of China’s Foreign Aid for COVID-19 Provided through Chinese Companies; RWR Data Summarizes China’s Global COVID-19 Outreach

Overview

Dur­ing the glob­al spread of COVID-19, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has sought to estab­lish a rep­u­ta­tion for being a key sup­port­er of the efforts of coun­tries around the world to con­tain and fight back the virus.  RWR has tracked these efforts, cat­a­logu­ing the sources, meth­ods, time­line and des­ti­na­tion of Chi­nese aid pro­vid­ed between March and ear­ly May 2020.  This data shows that, since March 1, 2020, Chi­nese dona­tions have been announced to at least 127 dif­fer­ent coun­tries and that approx­i­mate­ly half of these announced trans­ac­tions have been pro­vid­ed through cor­po­ra­tions, rather than gov­ern­ment agen­cies or phil­an­thropic organizations.

Methodology

RWR pro­vides a num­ber of visu­als below that pro­vide addi­tion­al detail on the num­ber of COVID-19 relat­ed dona­tions and how, where and when they have been dis­trib­uted.  These visu­als count the num­ber of unique dona­tions, not the num­ber of PPE items or any approx­i­mate val­ue assigned to them.  A unique dona­tion is con­sid­ered an assis­tance pack­age deliv­ered to a spe­cif­ic coun­try.  The announce­ment of donat­ed items to mul­ti­ple coun­tries would be count­ed once for each coun­try receiv­ing the aid.

The num­bers report­ed below are designed to exclude trans­ac­tions that are tra­di­tion­al exports from Chi­na (i.e., items pro­cured by for­eign coun­tries or com­pa­nies).  An effort has been made to cap­ture only sup­port that was deliv­ered either at no cost or on some dis­count­ed or clear­ly sub­si­dized terms.  Although these details were not always avail­able, RWR has used its best efforts to cat­e­go­rize trans­ac­tions appropriately.

Iron­i­cal­ly, this ques­tion of which trans­ac­tions are dona­tions and which are pro­cure­ments has been anoth­er source of fric­tion relat­ed to China’s track record on trans­paren­cy as it relates to the virus and the mes­sag­ing wars that have fol­lowed around the world.  On sev­er­al occa­sions, there has been open dis­pute and local con­tro­ver­sy around sup­plies that were orig­i­nal­ly rep­re­sent­ed as dona­tions lat­er being alleged to be procurements.

Over Half of China’s COVID-19 Donations Provided by Corporations

As demon­strat­ed below, approx­i­mate­ly half of the dona­tions between March and ear­ly May were pro­vid­ed by Chi­nese com­pa­nies.  Not sur­pris­ing­ly, in many cas­es, these firms had sig­nif­i­cant busi­ness inter­ests or objec­tives in the coun­tries to which they dis­trib­uted the aid.  While the lev­el of coor­di­na­tion in Bei­jing that went into the sup­plies being sent through com­pa­nies, rather than through gov­ern­ment sources, is unclear, it seems like­ly that part of the rea­son would be the ben­e­fit that this might pro­vide to their respec­tive brands, rep­u­ta­tions, and long-term busi­ness inter­ests in the coun­try.  Indeed, in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions, these cor­po­rate gains could be seen as simul­ta­ne­ous­ly rein­forc­ing the strate­gic inter­ests of the state.

Chan­nel­ing aid through com­pa­nies offers Bei­jing a poten­tial means to boost pub­lic per­cep­tion of Chi­nese enter­prise abroad and mit­i­gate exist­ing lev­els of skep­ti­cism regard­ing Chi­nese invest­ments held among cer­tain for­eign gov­ern­ments, many of which have grown more con­cerned about preda­to­ry invest­ments by Chi­nese com­pa­nies amidst the mar­ket vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty caused by the pandemic.

The Chi­nese com­pa­nies that have giv­en mul­ti­ple COVID-19-relat­ed dona­tions to coun­tries dur­ing the past sev­er­al weeks tend to be com­pa­nies that are involved in con­struc­tion, trav­el, ener­gy, or tech­nol­o­gy.  RWR data shows Chi­na Rail­way Con­struc­tion Corp. is the com­pa­ny most active in China’s COVID-19 response efforts.  This is also a com­pa­ny that has been among the most pro­lif­ic con­trac­tors along the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive.  Since March 1, CRCC has made at least 60 inter­na­tion­al donations.

Regional Breakdown of China’s Approach to Foreign Support for COVID-19

RWR data indi­cates that sub-Saha­ran Africa and Europe have been the two largest region­al recip­i­ents of Chi­nese aid dur­ing this peri­od.  The sub­stan­tial influx of dona­tions into sub-Saha­ran Africa from Chi­nese phil­an­thropic enti­ties has been led by the Jack Ma Foun­da­tion, which has giv­en sup­port to each African coun­try.  (Jack Ma was the co-founder and CEO of Aliba­ba until 2019.)

While dona­tions from Chi­nese com­pa­nies have been observed in all regions, it is worth not­ing that dona­tions from the Chi­nese state have been sig­nif­i­cant­ly less in Eura­sia and North Amer­i­ca, where dona­tions by cor­po­rate enti­ties are clear­ly dom­i­nant in our numbers.

As not­ed above, the choice of fun­nel­ing sup­plies through com­pa­nies, rather than gov­ern­ment, in these areas (or the choice to allow com­pa­nies to take the lead) could be attrib­uted to the oppor­tu­ni­ty the sit­u­a­tion presents to reform the image and per­cep­tion of Chi­nese firms in coun­tries that been skep­ti­cal of Chi­nese invest­ment in recent years and where they would like to become more active play­ers in the future.