China Research

Rigorous evidence from AidData's uniquely comprehensive data and analysis about the changing nature, scale, and scope of China’s overseas development program, its planet-scale impact, and how its perceived in the Global South.

Tools for Research and Policy
Search AidData's comprehensive and granular dataset of international development finance from China, which captures 20,985 projects across 165 low- and middle-income countries financed with grants and loans worth $1.34 trillion from 2000-2021.


Filter an aggregate financial information on China's development projects to subnational provinces and districts
Public Diplomacy
Filter data on China’s soft power toolkit to create, and export own custom graphs, maps, and in-depth country profiles on China's economic and soft power tools.
Harboring Global Ambitions
Explore a shortlist of potential locations for future Chinese naval bases

Belt and Road Reboot

Beijing's Bid to De-Risk Its Global Infrastructure Initiative

The report draws upon AidData’s new, uniquely comprehensive dataset capturing 20,985 Chinese development finance projects across 165 countries worth $1.34 trillion from 2000-2021

Photo: Davide Monteleone

Our Research on China

A decade of innovation, rigor and collaboration

AidData's research on China began a decade ago, with a team of William & Mary faculty, staff, and students asking a common question: How do you figure out what China is funding when, where, and to what effect?

Because China's state-backed lenders and donors rarely disclose the terms and conditions or implementation arrangements that govern the country's aid and debt, we face a knowledge gap in understanding the socio-economic, environmental, governance, and geopolitical implications of these financial flows.

Today, as China has established itself as a financier of first resort in emerging markets, this question is relevant now more than ever. To bolster the country's soft power, leaders in Beijing have mobilized government agencies, media outlets, and educational institutions at home and abroad as a megaphone to tell China’s story to the world.

As China's engagement with the world has changed, so too has AidData's research. We have broken new ground to quantifiably measure a much broader range of China's activities than had been previously attempted before. We have systematically quantified key dimensions of Chinese public diplomacy and influence with foreign leaders and publics. We've revealed the specific terms of debt contracts in foreign countries with China's state-owned banks. And we are currently tracking China's full development finance portfolio.

Earlier versions of our Global Chinese Development Finance Dataset have led to more than 250 publications that have been cited over 4,000 times in academic literature and 450 times by leading journalists.



In late 2023, AidData launched an updated version of its Global Chinese Development Finance Dataset, which tracks the known universe of projects supported by official financial and in-kind commitments (or pledges) from China for years 2000-2021. This uniquely comprehensive dataset captures 20,985 projects across 165 countries worth $1.34 trillion, and informs a comprehensive report, Belt and Road Reboot: Beijing's Bid to De-Risk Its Global Infrastructure Initiative
Interactive feature

The Harboring Global Ambitions report leverages new data and satellite imagery to explore China's global ports footprints and implications for future naval bases. An accompanying dataset tracks 123 seaport projects worth $29.9 billion financed by Chinese state-owned entities to construct or expand 78 ports in 46 countries from 2000-2021.

Interactive feature
China ports map
The Innovators and Emulators report maps the common tools of digital censorship that China and Russia use and export to autocratizing countries, featuring five case studies: Azerbaijan, Nicaragua, Serbia, Turkey, and Uganda.

Co-published with the International Republican Institute
An AidData Working Paper, China as an International Lender of Last Resort, finds that Beijing has dramatically expanded emergency rescue lending to sovereign borrowers in financial distress or outright default. By the end of 2021, China had undertaken 128 rescue loan operations across 22 debtor countries worth $240 billion.

Co-published with the World Bank, the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Kiel Institute for the World Economy


The Delivering on the Belt and Road report and accompanying dataset examine how Beijing’s funding priorities have changed in the era of the BRI. It draws from a dataset of over 13,000 Chinese-financed development projects between 2000 and 2017, as well as two AidData surveys of Global South leaders, to decode both the supply of and demand for these projects.

The culmination of over a decade's worth of research, Banking on Beijing: The Aims and Impacts of China's Overseas Development Program is released. The book, co-authored by AidData's Executive Director Brad Parks, introduces a systematic and transparent method of tracking Chinese development projects around the world; explains Beijing's motives; and analyzes the intended and unintended effects of its overseas investments.

Published by Cambridge University Press and authored by Axel Dreher, Andreas Fuchs, Bradley Parks, Austin Strange, and Michael J. Tierney


The Corridors of Power report analyzes Beijing's efforts to cultivate economic, social, and network ties with 13 countries in South and Central Asia (SCA) over two decades. These ties foster interdependence with China that have the potential to both empower and constrain SCA countries, while threatening to displace or diminish the influence of regional rivals such as Russia, India, and the United States.

The Banking on the Belt and Road report introduces a uniquely comprehensive dataset of China's global development finance. With new updates to, you can search detailed records for 13,427 projects worth $843 billion across 165 countries from 2000 to 2017.

Updates to AidData's China's Global Public Diplomacy Dashboard let users dive into China’s soft power toolkit for 38 countries across Asia and the Pacific. With these new updates, you can track China's financial diplomacy at the subnational level and access detailed country profiles for a bird's-eye view of Beijing's influence.

AidData publishes its groundbreaking report, How China Lends, and accompanying search tool to provide a rare look into the original texts of 100 debt contracts between the Chinese government and 24 low- and middle-income countries.

Co-published with the Center for Global Development, the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, and the Peterson Institute for International Economics

AidData's most recent Listening to Leaders Survey of nearly 7,000 leaders in 141 countries finds an increasingly contested development cooperation field, as China rises sharply in influence among developing country leaders.

Interactive feature
Listening to Leaders 2021


AidData researchers contribute a chapter to the National Bureau of Asian Research's book, Strategic Asia 2019: China’s Expanding Strategic Ambitions.

Two reports, Influencing the Narrative and Silk Road Diplomacy, analyze China's efforts to manage negative reactions to its growing military and economic strength, as well as to win friends and allies.

The Silk Road Diplomacy report was co-published with the CSIS China Power Project and the Asia Society Policy Institute

Interactive feature
China's public diplomacy


An AidData Working Paper, Connective Financing, uses high-resolution satellite imagery and a first-of-its-kind geolocated dataset of Chinese development projects to measure the impacts of China's infrastructure investments on regional inequality.


In its flagship report, Ties that Bind, AidData provides the first quantitative look into China's public diplomacy activities in the East Asia and Pacific region between 2000 and 2016.

Co-published with the CSIS China Power Project and the Asia Society Policy Institute


AidData's Global Chinese Official Finance Dataset, Version 1.0 launches, capturing 4,373 project records totaling $354.4 billion in Chinese development finance from 2000-2014.


To discover the impact of Chinese-funded infrastructure on forest health in ecological hotspots in Cambodia and Tanzania, AidData conducts a geospatial impact evaluation (GIE), overlaying our geo-referenced Chinese project data with high-resolution satellite data.


AidData debuts its Tracking Underreported Financial Flows methodology, tracking 1,699 development finance activities in Africa from 2000 to 2011.