China’s overseas humanitarian action to assist refugees

This paper explores China’s developing role in responding to displacement crises
Research paper Published 6 June 2022 Updated 7 July 2022 ISBN: 978 1 78413 527 0 DOI: 10.55317/9781784135270
Refugees walk to a camp in Bangladesh.

Emily Venturi

Academy Associate, Asia-Pacific Programme

In recent years, China has boosted its support for humanitarian action to assist refugees, mostly through increased funding for multilateral institutions and diplomatic engagement. China’s engagement is mainly development-focused and state-centric, although Chinese non-state actors are also advancing some new activities. 

The country’s technical expertise in areas such as disaster relief, rural development and digital technologies can make a significant contribution to humanitarian responses. However, it is important not to overestimate Chinese engagement on refugee relief: the issue area remains sensitive within Chinese society and China’s approach to humanitarianism is evolving. 

Looking ahead, Chinese actors will need to translate high-level commitments into tangible outcomes and partnerships within a transparent framework for overseas humanitarian action. It remains to be seen whether international and Chinese actors are able to navigate each other’s differences in approach and increase collaboration on refugee relief.