Xi's US Visit 2015
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China’s Xi Jinping pledges US$2 billion in aid to lift world’s poorest states

Beijing also offers debt forgiveness to developing countries as it tries to counter criticism it doesn’t shoulder enough global responsibility

Beijing has pledged billions in aid and debt forgiveness for the world’s poorest nations as President Xi Jinping continues his overseas push to present China as a global power.

In his first address to the United Nations in New York, Xi said Beijing would set up a development fund with an initial pledge of US$2 billion to help developing countries realise a wide-ranging, “post-2015” global sustainable development agenda.

“China will continue to increase investment in the least-developed countries, aiming to increase its total to US$12 billion by 2030,” Xi told a sustainable development summit.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about Xi's US trip

China would also forgive some debts owed by the least developed countries this year and launch 600 projects to cut poverty and boost development overseas over the next five years.

In addition, US$2 million in cash would be given to the World Health Organisation, the president said on Saturday.

In making the commitments, Xi said China was “putting justice before interests”.

“To solve various global challenges, including the recent refugee crisis in Europe, the fundamental solutions lie in seeking peace and realising development,” Xi said.

Xi also co-chaired a Global Leaders Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment yesterday, saying China would donate US$10 million to the UN Women programme.

US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said on Twitter: “Xi hosting a meeting on women’s rights at the UN while persecuting feminists? Shameless.”

Xi is expected to address the UN General Assembly  for the first time today.

The pledge on Saturday came a day after China promised US$3.1 billion to help developing countries adapt to climate change. Developed nations have long criticised China for not taking enough responsibility for global problems.

In his meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday, Xi said China was committed to fostering a new model of international relations but developed nations should “take their historic and moral responsibilities” to support developing nations, Xinhua  reported.

Zhang Jun, director general of the foreign ministry’s department of international economic affairs,  said the US$2 billion pledge carried more political weight than practical meaning.

“It’s not a way to solve all problems. It’s more political than practical,” Zhang said.

“What we do wish to emphasise is that China is willing to do as much as possible to help other countries, developing countries, but you cannot expect that a fund with limited resources can be a solution to all problems.”

He added there would be no political conditions imposed on the aid.

Jin Canrong, an international relations expert at Renmin University, said the expanded aid programme showed that Beijing was increasingly aware of its global responsibilities.

“China has the moral responsibility to keep its promise to ensure developing countries share the benefits of China’s progress. It is also responding to the … developing world, which has asked for help,” Jin said.

“The third motive is to ease the pressure from developed countries, especially the US, which have accused China of being a selfish ‘free rider’.”

[The pledge on investment] is not much compared to our GDP
Jin Canrong, professor

He said the US$12 billion commitment over 15 years was lower than he expected.

“It is about US$800 million per year, which is not much compared to our GDP of over US$10 trillion,” Jin said. “But I expect China’s foreign aid to increase quickly in the future because it was too low in the past.”

Xi has a tight schedule for his first visit to the UN headquarters, and is expected to meet his Russian counterpart  Vladimir Putin and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani.   

Additional reporting by Andrea Chen, Nectar Gan, Agence France-Presse

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Xi’s US$2b aid pledge to lift poor states