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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

U.S. Assistance Programs in China

Thomas Lum
Specialist in Asian Affairs

This report examines U.S. foreign assistance activities in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), including U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) programming, foreign operations appropriations, policy history, and legislative background. International programs supported by U.S. departments and agencies other than the Department of State and USAID are not covered in this report.

U.S. foreign assistance efforts in the PRC aim to promote human rights, democracy, the rule of law, and environmental conservation in China and Tibet and to support Tibetan livelihoods and culture. The United States Congress has played a leading role in initiating programs and determining funding levels for these objectives. Congressionally mandated rule of law, civil society, public participation, and related programs together constitute an important component of U.S. human rights policy towards China. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States is the largest provider of “government and civil society” programming among major bilateral foreign aid donors.

During the past decade, the U.S. Department of State and USAID have administered a growing number and range of programs in China. Between 2001 and 2010, the United States government authorized or made available nearly $275 million for Department of State foreign assistance efforts in the PRC, of which $229 million was devoted to human rights, democracy, rule of law, and related activities, Tibetan communities, and the environment. U.S. program areas include the following: promoting the rule of law, civil society, and democratic norms and institutions; training legal professionals; building the capacity of judicial institutions; reforming the criminal justice system; supporting sustainable livelihoods and cultural preservation in Tibetan communities; protecting the environment; and improving the prevention, care, and treatment of HIV/AIDS in China. The direct recipients of State Department and USAID grants have been predominantly U.S.-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and universities. Some Chinese NGOs, universities, and government entities have participated in, collaborated with, or indirectly benefited from U.S. programs and foreign aid grantees.

Some observers have debated the efficacy of U.S. foreign assistance efforts in China. Some policy analysts argue that U.S. democracy, rule of law, and related programs have had little effect in China due to political constraints and restrictions on civil society imposed by the PRC government. Furthermore, some policy makers contend that the United States should not provide assistance to a country, like China, that has significant foreign aid resources of its own. Other observers argue that U.S. assistance activities in China have helped to build social and legal foundations for political change and bolster reform-minded officials in the PRC government. Some experts also propound that U.S. programs have nurtured relationships among governmental and non-governmental actors and educational institutions in the United States and the PRC, which have helped to develop common understandings about democratic norms and principles.

Date of Report: April 22, 2011
Number of Pages: 15
Order Number: RS22663
Price: $29.95

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