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

What is the Real Story of China’s “Hidden Debt”?
Deborah Brautigam and Yufan Huang
Policy Brief,  octobre 2021

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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. 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. CARI has released this week a new briefing paper examining the data underpinning the AidData conclusions.

In Briefing Paper 6, "What is the Real Story of China’s “Hidden Debt”?, Deborah Brautigam and Yufan Huang conduct their own analysis of the data and diverge significantly from AidData's headline conclusions. While they agree with many of the researchers' points, Brautigam and Huang argue that by providing averages, glossing over outliers, and allocating the entire Chinese loan for joint ventures to only the host government partner, the AidData report is unduly alarmist. They also draw lessons from the new dataset for international institutions and national governments seeking to improve debt transparency.