Beijing has lent as much as $1.5 trillion to countries struggling financially, according to AidData
Chinese financial institutions lent $1.3 trillion to developing countries between 2000 and 2021, according to a new report by AidData released this week.
The research estimates that 80% of China’s overseas lending portfolio in the developing world is currently supporting countries in financial distress. Developing country borrowers reportedly owe Chinese lenders between $1.1 trillion and $1.5 trillion as of 2021.
AidData researchers analyzed nearly 21,000 projects in 165 low- and middle-income countries, which were financed with Chinese grants and loans between 2000 and 2021.
According to the report, China remains the world’s single largest official source of international development finance.
“Beijing is navigating an unfamiliar and uncomfortable role – as the world’s largest official debt collector,” AidData researchers wrote, adding that the country is “increasingly behaving like an international crisis manager.”
Data shows that the cumulative number of Chinese grant- and loan-financed infrastructure projects in the developing world with significant environmental, social, or governance (ESG) risk exposure skyrocketed from 17 projects worth $420 million in 2000 to 1,693 projects worth $470 billion in 2021.
The report highlighted that China would not have become the world’s largest official creditor to the developing world – larger than the World Bank, the IMF, and all Paris Club creditors combined – if not for its massive stockpile of foreign exchange reserves. The country’s official foreign currency reserves total approximately $3.1 trillion as of 2023, according to AidData.
The study found that the destinations for Chinese overseas lending have changed. Loan commitments to African countries reportedly plunged from 31% of the total in 2018 to 12% in 2021, while lending to European countries almost quadrupled to 23%.
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