Soviet Aid to the Third World: 1955-1972

The above three maps list the countries that received foreign aids from China, the Soviet Union, and America between the 1950s and 1970s.  Clearly China was trying to compete with the Soviet Union as the top “socialist” lender.  It should be noted that while the USSR extended all its aids to China on a returnable basis, the Chinese aids went out as loans with nominal interest charges, interest-free loans, or in many cases free gifts.  China extended high-risk loans to countries that international organizations and even Western countries and the Soviet Union hesitated to loan money to, believing, in a blindly romantic light, that it was on a higher moral ground than those who extended foreign loans for imperialistic or commercial agendas.  The reality was that these generous gestures came at the cost of impoverished Chinese villagers who had to surrender their harvest because the Chinese state needed to export them for precious foreign reserves.   

However, China’s foreign aids, being sent out at the expense of the welfare of its own citizens, yielded little exclusive friendship, comradeship, or loyalty in return.  The above three maps also shows that there was much overlap in terms of the recipient nations of Chinese, Soviet, and American aids.  There were 29 countries—six in Asia, seventeen in Africa, four in Near Middle East, and two in Latin America—that accepted money from both Beijing and Moscow.  More importantly, there were fourteen countries that received aids from China, the U.S.S.R, and the U.S. altogether:  Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka; Algeria, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Mauritania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia; Chile, Peru; and Syria.  Beijing was eager to set its aid program apart from that of Moscow or Washington.  But the reality was that in many occasions, a receipt nation simply used the relatively “small” Chinese aids as a bait to induce bigger packages from the Russians (playing off the Sino-Soviet split), and eventually even bigger ones from the U.S.  This phenomenon occurred less frequently after China and the U.S. established full diplomatic relations in 1979 but did not end until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. 

Blog at