IfW in den Medien

Is China the World’s Loan Shark?

17.07.2019

Berichte über die Studie „China’s Overseas Lending“ von Christoph Trebesch et al.

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(...) On the other hand, recent work from a team of researchers based out of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy suggests we may not be worried enough. They discovered that half of all foreign debt to Chinese state-run banks and institutions is “hidden” from the normal databases. Consequently, “debt levels and the debt service burdens in two dozen developing countries are much higher than previously thought.”

Imagine China says it will finance a road or a power plant for an African or Asian country. The Chinese companies actually executing that project are the final recipients of the loan; instead of sending the money across international borders to the country in question and having that government pay the Chinese company in turn, the bank may just make the transfer to the company’s account within China. The resulting transaction wouldn’t show up in the official international data or even in national accounts. But the borrower would still eventually have to repay the interest and principal.

Worryingly, the Kiel researchers say that these loans are usually secured against public-sector or commodity revenues and their terms are rarely made public. Do they flow mostly to countries that are aligned, or subsequently align, with China? The Kiel study doesn’t say, but there is evidence that Chinese development aid, at least, is closely associated with political support at the United Nations.

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