Michael Pettis sur les prêts de la Chine
Twitter, 30 mars 2021
The lesson here was always more about ordinary incompetence than debt-trap diplomacy. One of the big problems with development-country lending — and especially from inexperienced lenders — is how dangerously pro-cyclical it always is. Another problem is how easy it has always seemed to countries that are first "going out" into development lending — e.g. the US in the 1920s, the USSR in the 1950s, OPEC in the 1970s, Japan in the 1980s, China in the 2000s, etc. In the early stages of the lending, when underlying conditions were good and commodity prices rising, Chinese investors, like all of their predecessors, thought they had discovered a new, better way to invest in riskier countries — with foreign observers worriedly agreeing — and poured money into all sorts of projects, especially in countries in which other investors were most reluctant to invest. This seemed to reinforce underlying growth, setting off even more inflows and, invariably, unleashing large amounts of wasteful spending. But at some point — in this case I suspect it happened with Venezuela around 2014-15 — they suddenly discovered what everyone else already knew about the difficulty of financing development projects, especially in certain political environments, and began sharply to pull back. This pulling back, of course, worsened underlying economic conditions even further and began to create political resentment. We seem to be at the beginning of this stage.
The best thing Beijing can do is recognize quickly that it has been caught in the same mess it said it would never get caught in and work to restructure and partially forgive the debt, but if historical precedents are any guide, that will probably take many more years of losses for both sides.