China's Development Finance

New report, Banking on the Belt and Road, offers the clearest look yet

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Behind the scenes of the world’s most comprehensive dataset on China’s overseas development finance program

Take a closer look at what makes AidData's Global Chinese Development Finance dataset unique, the data collection process, and how to navigate the dataset in these videos.

The world’s most comprehensive dataset on China’s overseas development finance program

Collecting the data on China's overseas development finance

How to navigate our dataset on China's overseas development finance

About the dataset





$843 billion

financial commitments tracked


years covered



Search comprehensive project records about China's overseas development finance program.

Banker or benefactor?

Trends from China's rise as a financier of first resort

Before the launch of China's Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, China and the U.S. were overseas spending rivals. However, China is now outspending the U.S. and other major powers on a more than 2:1 basis. In an average year during the BRI era, China spent $85 billion on their overseas development program, as compared to the U.S.’s $37 billion.

Over the last two decades, China has provided record amounts of international development finance and established itself as a financier of first resort for many low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs), especially for infrastructure projects. The number of “mega-projects”—financed with loans worth $500 million or more—approved each year tripled during the first five years of the Belt and Road Initiative.

In order to share credit risk and support projects that they would not otherwise finance on their own, China’s state-owned banks are increasingly coordinating and collaborating via lending syndicates and other co-financing arrangements. The percentage of Beijing’s overseas lending portfolio that is co-financed has soared and now stands at approximately 32%.

How much debt to China have low- and middle-income governments accumulated—and how much is hidden?


average interest rate

under 2 years

average grace period

under 10 years

average maturity length

42 countries

now have levels of public debt exposure to China in excess of...


of GDP on average, for a total of...

$385 billion

in underreported debt


Which international donors do leaders see as their preferred development partners?

From the report...

In this study, we use two demand-side measures of development partner performance: influence in shaping policy priorities, and helpfulness in implementing policy initiatives or reforms. Leaders rated the influence and helpfulness of the institutions they had worked with, from a fixed list of 43 multilateral and bilateral donors, on a scale of 1 (not at all influential / not at all helpful) to 4 (very influential / very helpful). In this analysis, we only include a donor if they were rated by at least 30 respondents.

For each of the development partners from whom they received advice or assistance, leaders were asked a series of performance questions. Using their responses, we calculated three perception-based measures of development partner performance: (1) influence in shaping how leaders prioritize which problems to solve; (2) whether that influence was seen as positive (or negative); and (3) helpfulness in supporting leaders to implement policy changes (i.e., reforms).

Download the report