What is the Real Story of China’s “Hidden Debt”?

Image: Flickr, Apec
Image: Flickr, Apec

On September 29, AidData, a research lab at William & Mary, released a detailed overview of their new data on China’s global lending, Banking on the Belt and Road.

On September 29, AidData, a research lab at William & Mary, released a detailed overview of their new data on China’s global lending, Banking on the Belt and Road.1AidData, “Banking on the Belt and Road: Insights from a new global dataset of 13,427 Chinese development projects,” https:// www.aiddata.org/publications/banking-on-the-belt-and-road.The report has generated much commentary. Yet most people will likely read only the headlines: that US$ 385 billion of a purported US$ 676 billion in Chinese loans made to developing countries between 2000 and 2017 was not being reported to the World Bank.2The US$ 676 billion value here is the total of “sovereign and hidden debt exposure to China” in Table A-27 of AidData’s report, which accounts for all Chinese overseas loans collected by AidData. The analysis excluded 11 high-income countries and territories. Both US$ 676 billion and US$ 385 billion are constant 2017 US$. See AidData, “Banking on the Belt and Road.” “The average government,” the authors contend, “is underreporting its actual
and potential repayment obligations to China by an amount that is
equivalent to 5.8% of its GDP.

1 Jan 2021