"Emerging countries need to be smart, sharp, because donor countries can be interested more in extracting your resources than building your capacity," Clinton told the global forum on aid effectiveness held in the South Korean port city of Busan.
"Quick fixes will not produce sustainable growth," Clinton said, urging recipient nations to be "smart shoppers."
"Some funding might help fill short-term budget gaps, but we've seen time and again that these quick fixes won't produce self-sustaining results," she said.
In her speech, Clinton did not mention China by name, but the remarks were apparently aimed at Beijing, which has stepped up aid efforts around the world, particularly in Africa.
How to bring China, an increasingly powerful player in global development aid, into the club of major donors is one of the key issues at the three-day Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, which opened Tuesday.
Traditional major donors have urged China to make its foreign assistance more transparent, but Beijing has been reluctant to do so, said a Seoul delegate, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
About 3,500 policymakers and experts from more than 160 nations took part in the Busan conference to make global aid flows more effective. It is the largest follow-up since the event was launched in Paris in 2005 to gauge political commitments by both donors and recipients to improve the quality of aid.
Clinton called for developing nations to make major efforts to promote the private business sector for sustainable growth, citing a South Korean company's case in Haiti.
"If you improve the business environment in your country, while also setting clear expectations for the private sector about how they need to operate, you can create new opportunities for your people," Clinton said.
"In Haiti, the government is working with a Korean company, putting together a $70 million investment to help build a textile mill that will employee 2,000 people," she said.