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The 'Chinese way'? The evolution of Chinese humanitarianism

Briefing/policy papers

Written by Hanna Krebs

China’s rising economic power has meant that it is now playing a bigger role in humanitarian aid. However, the country tends to be depicted as being different to the international humanitarian community and has been criticised for its perceived failure to conform to established humanitarian norms and practices. 

This policy brief examines China’s distinctive ‘humanitarian’ identity and the need for an increased dialogue between the international humanitarian community and China. 

Key messages: 

• Shaped by its own history of humanitarianism as well as its particular cultural values, China boasts its own, distinctive ‘humanitarian’ identity. 

• While China has taken a distinctive approach to humanitarian action, the country is becoming more pragmatic and accepting of international norms. 

• Current spending on humanitarian action is relatively small, but is set to increase in the future. 

• Increased bilateral and multilateral exchange by means of regular dialogue, joint training for relevant agencies and institutionalised communication channels with China will be useful in bridging differences and enhancing collaboration in humanitarian action.

The research findings are also available as a larger working paper: “Responsibility, legitimacy, morality: Chinese humanitarianism in historical perspective".

Hanna Krebs