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If the World Bank Wants to Move On from the Doing Business Scandal, It Should Take a Look at AidData

Today’s release of a new dataset of over 13,000 Chinese-financed projects in developing countries marks a major contribution to our understanding of China’s role as a lender to the developing world, as well as the ways in which these projects are increasingly structured to avoid accounting for direct liabilities on public balance sheets. At a moment of high debt vulnerability in the developing world, both contributions ought to prove valuable to policymakers in rich and poor countries alike as they seek to work through these problems.  

A road construction project in Sri Lanka. Photo by Deshan Tennekoon/World Bank

In the Secretive World of Government-to-Government Lending, 100 Chinese Debt Contracts Offer a Trove of New Information

Is Chinese financing good for developing countries? Taking stock of China’s lending activities has long been hindered by the lack of publicly available data on dimensions like loan volumes and interest rates, let alone more esoteric features like loan collateral or default contingencies. A pathbreaking new study by researchers at AidData at William & Mary, the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, the Peterson Institute for International Economics, Georgetown Law School, and the Center for Global Development changes that.

Map of Chinese lending projects around the world, concentrated in Europe, Asia, and Africa

The Problem Isn’t that Chinese Lending Is Too Big, It’s that the US and Europe’s Is Too Small

As the possibility of a new Cold War between the US and China gains traction in some foreign policy circles, the scale of Chinese development finance has taken center stage. A closer examination suggests the cost to China of this lending is distinctly underwhelming. It would be cheap for the US and Europe to match China’s lending numbers –and in the interest of global development if it was done right.

A construction worker at an unfinished building in China. Curt Carnemark, World Bank photo.

With a Debt Crisis Looming, Researchers Who Estimated China’s “Hidden” Lending Respond to Their Critics

Last year, economists Sebastian Horn, Carmen Reinhart, and Christoph Trebesch put forward estimates of the Chinese government’s external (“overseas”) lending in a working paper. Their work was a landmark effort in a number of respects. Perhaps not surprisingly for a working paper, Horn et al. also attracted critics. In a new note for CGD, Horn et al. respond to this criticism.

A stock photo of a see-through piggy bank. Adobe Stock.

A Reckoning for China’s Opaque Overseas Lending

We are so accustomed to the Chinese government’s lack of transparency that the opaqueness of China’s overseas loans seems unremarkable at this point. But as we face what inevitably looks like a global debt crisis, one that is likely to hit low-income countries particularly hard, a clear accounting of the scale of the problem is critical. 

Chart showing falling US pledges to IDA and rising Chinese pledges to IDA

The US and China Have Very Different Takes on IDA and the Global Fund: Why that Matters for the Future of Multilateral Aid

When it comes to the United States, the reality is that the Global Fund is winning the fundraising game hands down. China, meanwhile, doubled its contribution to IDA—contrast that with the country’s longstanding indifference to the Global Fund. Clearly the world’s most important emerging donor views the multilateral architecture differently than the world’s most important traditional donor does.

Adobe Stock image of a pile of coins with a rising bar graph overlaid

HIPC with Chinese Characteristics: Why Yesterday’s Debt Relief Is the Wrong Point of Reference for Today’s Crises

Concerns about rising debt risks in developing economies were front and center at the annual meetings. HIPC is a useful reference point as we talk about a new round of debt crises. But thanks to the rise of China as a lender, the creditor community today looks much different from the HIPC creditor community—with implications for any resolution to a debt crisis.

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