In the supermarket I recently came across two helpless Chinese. They wanted to buy cigarettes, but none of them spoke English. That made it difficult to negotiate prices. For me it was a highly welcome opportunity to use my – by now pretty rusty – Mandarin Chinese skills. The two were staff of the “Medical Aid Team of Chinese People’s Liberation Army to Sierra Leone”.
It was this encounter that made me curious and I tried to collect some information on China’s engagement in the fight against Ebola.
First, I found the following statistics (via VOX):
Regarding the pledged Ebola aid, China lies somewhere in the middle compared to other donor countries. Considering how many funds were disbursed in reality until end of December, China is falling back considerably. Nevertheless, new pledges of China make it onto the front pages of daily newspapers regularly.
The relationship between China and Sierra Leone seems to be not all-well. Sierra Leone belongs to the countries that were affected heavily from land grabbing in the past years. China’s development aid policy is frequently blamed for these processes.
On the other hand, newspapers display positive examples of China’s aid, for instance the support of an orphanage or the funding of awareness raising pages in the newspapers.
I personally want to point out that I meet very rarely Chinese representatives of aid organisations, donors or the government on meetings. Based on Sierra Leone’s history, the UK are heavily involved here in the aid operations, of course also the U.S. And the largest NGOs involved all have a European or North American back ground. That’s my personal observation. The position of the Chinese government towards development aid remains questionable, Ebola didn’t change this perception.
This is a translation of my original article in German.