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Christine Han

Trilateral Cooperation with China: Sharing China's Development Experience through Innovative Partnerships

2017. Vol. 12. No. 3. P. 201–229 [issue contents]

China has recently become a key provider of development cooperation in the world. Its development cooperation budget has increased on average 12% annually since 2003. The Chinese government has increased its contribution to United Nations agencies and made several major development cooperation commitments including the pledge of multibillion U.S. dollar support for African countries. China has also led in establishing new regional and global initiatives such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the BRICS New Development Bank.

China pays close attention to trilateral development cooperation and has increased the number and the scale of its trilateral partnerships. Trilateral cooperation helps China expand its scope and has the potential to increase the effectiveness of its development cooperation. China is carrying out several trilateral cooperation projects with UN agencies and traditional bilateral development partners. These projects cover different sectors such as agriculture, food security, health, education, disaster management, trade and investment. China contributes knowledge, expertise and technology and provides full or partial financial resources.

UN agencies are considered to be neutral partners to China that have global networks of country offices with direct links to governments. Special attention is paid to trilateral cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and China. The parties jointly developed the first project in 2011 and currently have projects in five countries in Asia and Africa. There are two main models in China-UNDP partnership. The first model provides for joint funding from China and UNDP with Chinese experts playing a key role throughout the projects. The second stipulates funding from a third donor with China providing technical expertise and experience.

Given the experience to date, China’s trilateral partners cite several common benefits and challenges. Trilateral cooperation with China is considered beneficial for development partners to strengthen relationships and promote mutual learning with their Chinese counterparts. However, it is more complicated than bilateral cooperation in which higher transaction costs could incur. It is therefore important for all parties involved to identify common interests from the very beginning and be patient in day-to-day communication and coordination. Strong knowledge of local contexts and implementation capacities also help reduce transaction costs.

The author made some recommendations for developing trilateral cooperation with China. Current projects should be scaled up to larger and more complex projects, which requires further and continued resources from all sides. Given the complicated nature of trilateral cooperation, the roles, responsibilities and procedures need to be clearly defined. The specific monitoring and evaluation system for trilateral cooperation should be set out so that each partner’s added value, mutual learning and policy impact could be assessed.

Citation: Han C. (2017) Trilateral Cooperation with China: Sharing China‘s Development Experience through Innovative Partnerships. International Organisations Research Journal, vol. 12, no 3, pp. 201–229 (in Russian). DOI: 10.17323/1996-7845-2017-03-201
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