Six deep dives into China’s checkbook diplomacy

AidData’s release of the most comprehensive dataset yet on Beijing’s spending abroad prompted a flurry of media coverage and policy analysis. See our top five picks for articles and interviews that provide new insight.

January 23, 2018

Soren Patterson, John Custer

Looking for original analysis of our new dataset capturing $354 billion of Chinese government funding for nearly 4400 projects in 140 countries? From podcasts to think pieces, here are six data-driven explorations from 2017 you may have missed:

#1: CSIS Interactive Briefing: Where is China targeting its development finance?

CSIS has launched ChinaPower, a new mini-site focused on how China’s exercise of power is evolving relative to other countries. It looks at five thematic categories of power—military, economic, technological, social, and international image—with Chinese government funding playing a significant role in several of these categories. The interactive briefing also provides some nifty visualizations of our data that highlight how China’s spending patterns relate to its global interests.

#2: China in Africa Podcast: China is Challenging the West’s Dominance in Foreign Aid

Need to liven up a long commute? Looking for a new, meaty podcast to sink your teeth into? Have a listen to this recent edition of the China in Africa Podcast produced by ChinaFile, an online publication of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society. AidData’s Executive Director Brad Parks joins Eric Olander (founder of the China in Africa Project) and Cobus van Staden (co-host) for a wide-ranging discussion of how Beijing is really spending its money in places like Africa, and what it all means for global development. Press play for 45 minutes of in-depth yet accessible analysis.

#3: Brookings Blog: Where is China’s development finance really going?

Senior Fellow David Dollar explores the role that official finance plays in China’s  Belt and Road Initiative and examines the risk profile of China’s loan portfolio. For an even deeper dive, see the Brookings working paper, Is China’s Development Finance a Challenge to the International Order?, where Dollar considers how China is influencing global norms, especially with regard to the design and implementation of  infrastructure projects that pose significant social and environmental risks.

#4: World Bank Blog: Where does Chinese development finance go?

Global Data Editor Tariq Khokhar summarizes where different types of financial flows from the Chinese government are going in a post for The Data Blog. He also provides a helpful comparison between official bilateral credits represented in our dataset and the type of granular data that the World Bank collects on all financial flows for its borrowing countries. For readers that want to explore the code behind his analysis, Khokhar has made the post available as an R notebook.

#5: AEF Interview: Brad Parks on China’s Foreign Aid

To hear about our research on China straight from the horse’s mouth, check out this interview AidData’s Executive Director Brad Parks did with the Asia Experts Forum, a policy journal run by the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies at Claremont McKenna College. The conversation touches on global trends in spending by China and its Western competitors, the “rogue donor” narrative, how to best measure aid’s impact, China’s ODA-to-OOF ratio (and what could change it), and the unintended effects of Beijing’s request-based aid system.

#6: Carnegie-Tsinghua Op-Ed: Where Is the “Development” in China’s Global Development Finance?

In this thoughtful exploration of China’s overseas spending patterns, non-resident scholar Matt Ferchen draws from recent studies by AidData and the Global Economic Governance Initiative (GEGI) at Boston University to ask how much of Chinese development finance is truly developmental. He questions whether concessional lending by China’s state-owned banks—particularly in the energy and infrastructure sectors—is contributing to development outcomes, and raises some important debt sustainability questions.

Bonus: Aid, China, and Growth: Evidence from a New Global Development Finance Dataset

Ring in the new year with the AidData Working Paper that introduced our latest  dataset. A team of five researchers—Axel Dreher and Andreas Fuchs of Heidelberg University, Austin Strange of Harvard University, and Brad Parks and Michael Tierney of AidData and William & Mary—investigate whether and by how much Chinese aid affects economic growth in recipient countries. They also test the popular claim that Chinese aid reduces the effectiveness of grants and loans from Western donors and lenders. See the Appendices for a wealth of figures and charts, as well as  an overview of the Tracking Underreported Financial Flows (TUFF) methodology used to construct the dataset.