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China increasing bailouts to Belt and Road partners: report

March 28, 2023

China has ramped up bailouts to countries struggling to repay their debts from infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road Initiative, researchers found.

Shipping containers being loaded and unloaded at a port in Guangzhou, China
China's Belt and Road Initiative is a global infrastructure strategy aimed at boosting tradeImage: CFOTO/picture alliance

China has increasingly bailed out developing countries that have struggled to repay loans from the Belt and Road Initiative, according to a new report published on Tuesday.

Between 2008 and 2021, China issued $240 billion (€221.7 billion) in bailout loans to 22 countries, the report found. Around 80% of these rescue loans were issued after 2016.

The report was produced by researchers from the World Bank, the Harvard Kennedy School, US-based AidData and the Kiel Institute for the World Economy in Germany.

"Beijing is ultimately trying to rescue its own banks. That's why it has gotten into the risky business of international bailout lending," said Carmen Reinhart, a former World Bank chief economist and one of the study's authors.

Which countries received bailouts from China?

According to the report, Argentina received the most rescue loans from China, totaling $111.8 billion.

It was followed by Pakistan with $48.5 billion and Egypt with $15.6 billion.

Other countries that received significant sums include Mongolia, Sri Lanka and Suriname.

Sri Lanka's woes linked to China

The report said China mainly bailed out middle-income countries due to the risks they pose to Chinese banks' balance sheets..

Meanwhile, low-income countries are typically offered grace periods and maturity extensions, the report said.

"Beijing has targeted a limited set of potential recipients, as almost all Chinese rescue loans have gone to low- and middle-income BRI countries with significant debts outstanding to Chinese banks," the researchers wrote.

The report said China's bailout loans are small in comparison to the loans offered by the International Monetary Fund or the liquidity extended by the US Federal Reserve, but they are growing quickly.

Beijing says no strings attached to loans

On Tuesday, China's Foreign Ministry responded to the report of increased bailouts stemming from the Belt and Road Initiative.

Spokesperson Mao Ning said Beijing had never compelled other countries to take its loans.

He also said China never attached political strings to these loans.

zc/fb (Reuters, AFP)