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05/29/2013

Bill Gates calls on China to boost its 'modest' international aid budget

Gates
Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates gives a speech to the Australian National Press on Tuesday in Canberra. Gates urged China to boost foreign aid. (AP Photo/Rod McGuirk)

Bill Gates is calling out China.

The Microsoft tycoon said in Australia on Tuesday that China should be more active in international aid and development.

“I think that there is a real opportunity there. What they’ve done to date, as far as anything that is visible, is quite modest,” Gates said, according to Devex.com, an Australian-based website that reports on aid issues.

“I am hopeful that Chinese aid, both in terms of the quality of the aid and the quantity of the aid, will continue to increase," he said.

China’s development budget has been under scrutiny in recent months. While the state doesn’t disclose all of its spending, researchers have analyzed China’s aid commitments in Africa.

Earlier this month, a study and database released by the Center for Global Development in Washington and AidData, a research group at William and Mary College, turned up details on 1,673 Chinese development projects worth $75 billion in 50 African countries between 2000 and 2011.

Gates’s call to action is not limited to China. He has evolved into a formidable fundraiser for the developing world’s most pressing problems, coaxing many of the world’s rich and famous to leave some of their fortunes to charities, including his own, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Through an effort dubbed The Giving Pledge, Gates and fellow billionaire Warren Buffett have convinced more than 100 billionaires to give half of their fortunes to charity.

Earlier this month, Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, became the first female billionaire to join the pledge, Forbes magazine reported. Blakely was among eight new members, taking the pledge total to 114 billionaires since it started in 2010.

Devex also notes that Gates has been a public ally to China, defending it in a fight over technology with Google, and negotiating on behalf of one of the companies he has helped finance to sell wave reactor technology to China.

Rick Westhead is a foreign affairs writer at the Star. He was based in India as the Star’s South Asia bureau chief from 2008 until 2011 and reports on international aid and development. Follow him on Twitter @rwesthead

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