context: The establishment of a unified body to oversee foreign aid and BRI underlines China’s growing focus on foreign affairs. Not mentioned here is that SIDCA is also meant to be the adjudicator of inter-ministerial conflicts on these issues.

Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Foreign Affairs will form the State International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDCA) to coordinate foreign aid and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), announces Wang Yong 王勇 State Councillor. The plan re-allocates duties formerly covered by NDRC. It is slated to be passed March 17.

Foreign aid is essential to China’s strategy abroad, and creation of SIDCA supports this strategy. Its primary responsibilities will include

  • establishing foreign policy guidelines and strategies
  • promoting reform to the current foreign aid system
  • coordinating and ensuring continuity of international strategy
  • supporting and streamlining Belt and Road initiatives
  • optimising foreign aid functionality
  • managing increasingly complex foreign affairs work streams

SIDCA will report directly to State Council, enabling better project integration and coordination, asserts Wang. Creation of SIDCA is occurring in tandem with reshuffling of other ministerial portfolios, including a new Ministry of Culture and Tourism. These changes seek to

  • improve strategic planning
  • establish distinct functional mandates for each ministry
  • move to more streamlined government agencies

While SIDCA will oversee foreign aid strategy, Wang confirms that projects will still be carried out by relevant agencies and departments.