It seems that despite my thorough explanation of why China is not a rich country, even though it has the second highest GDP in the world, major governments have started to cut aid to China.
The UK’s department for distributing foreign aid actually had it’s budget grow by 1/3 this year, so it’s not just budgetary reasons for cutting their aid to China. The argument is simple, a country growing 10% a year is not in need of foreign aid.Japan has been a major mover of money in China’s direction, since 1979 they have given over $40 billion to China. They made an argument similar to the UK’s this morning, why should they be giving aid to a country that has a larger GDP than their own? Part of this also stems from China’s worsening relations with Japan; another is the fact that China itself is now a large distributor of aid (including North Korea who isn’t exactly “friendly” towards Japan).
The problem here is that China has made these arguments entirely too easy for foreign countries to make.
In 2008 China was in Olympic overdrive. CCTV 5 (the sports channel) even became CCTV Olympics, and rebroadcasted hundreds of hours of old Olympics, which strangely only showed Chinese athletes winning gold medals. The students on campus were required to make mock Olympic torches and make weekly runs through town to build Olympic spirit. The way everyone was acting it seemed as if we were mere feet from the Birds Nest itself (a place several students dreamed of making a pilgrimage to).
The fact was that Longzhou couldn’t have been much further from Beijing; we weren’t even close to a freeway. So you can imagine my surprise when the school received surveys from the government for me to fill out 6 months before the opening ceremony. Questions like “How has the Beijing Olympics changed your daily life?” and “How have the Beijing Olympics improved your city?” I was new to China then, but I still had a feeling that they were more interested in hearing the “right” answers than the truth.
I had shared those feelings though with my students. I warned them that volunteers like me would start to leave China after the Olympics, because China was starting to seem like a rich country to Westerners. The students didn’t understand the connection between hosting the Olympics, and a drop in foreign aid.
VSO, the UK’s version of the Peace Corps, pulled out of general education in late 2008, leaving only a few select volunteers behind to try to create a teacher training program. My own organization, that boasted more than 60 volunteers 10 years ago, has shrunk to 20, with half of those set to complete their terms at the end of this next school year. The drop in numbers in my organization is due largely to a lack of funding in general, as well as a shifting of funds to “more” needy countries.
The situation in China’s countryside is still a desperate one, in spite of the glitz of Shanghai and the skyscrapers of Beijing. Don’t buy into these easy arguments that China doesn’t need our help, because those in the countryside truly do.
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