How China Lends

A Rare Look into China's Debt Contracts with Foreign Governments

In Partnership With:

Kiel Institute
Peterson Institute

How China Lends

A Rare Look into 100 Debt Contracts with Foreign Governments

Through a systematic search of debt information management systems, official registers and gazettes, and repositories of legal acts in 200 countries, we have obtained and analyzed 100 loan agreements between Chinese government institutions (and state-owned banks) and 24 low- and middle-income countries.

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China is the world’s largest official creditor, but we lack basic facts about the terms and conditions of its overseas lending. AidData has conducted a systematic search of debt information management systems, official registers, and parliamentary websites in 200 countries in order to identify all publicly accessible loan contracts between Chinese government institutions (and state-owned banks) and low- and middle-income countries. To date, we have identified 100 Chinese loan contracts in 24 countries across Africa, Latin America, Asia-Pacific, and Eastern Europe.
If you know of a Chinese loan contract that is not in our document repository, please share it with us.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who led this effort to collect, analyze and publish these Chinese loan contracts?

The How China Lends study is the result of a collaboration between researchers at AidData at William & Mary, the Center for Global Development (CGD), the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, and the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE). 

The authors of the study include Anna Gelpern (PIIE and Georgetown Law) Sebastian Horn (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), Scott Morris (CGD), Brad Parks (AidData), and Christoph Trebesch (Kiel Institute for the World Economy).

Released in March 2021, the analysis is the first systematic evaluation of the legal terms of China’s foreign lending. It is based upon the largest source of debt contracts between Chinese government lenders and developing countries borrowers ever assembled. AidData oversaw the collection of these contracts over a 36-month period. 

How were the Chinese loan contracts uncovered?

All of the loan contracts were obtained from publicly available sources. None of the agreements were obtained from parties to the relevant contracts, advisers or agents of such parties, or any other source that was subject to a confidentiality undertaking in respect of such documents. 

The contracts were identified through a multi-year data collection initiative overseen by AidData, a research lab at William and Mary. AidData’s team of faculty, staff, and research assistants retrieved electronic copies of 100 Chinese loan contracts (not summaries or excerpts of the contracts) by conducting a systematic review of public sources, including the debt information management systems, official registers, and parliamentary websites of more than 200 countries. AidData has digitized each of the contracts and made them available through a searchable online repository (see above).

The authors of the How China Lends study employed two independent research teams—one at the Georgetown University Law Center and another at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy—to apply a consistent set of variable definitions and coding rules and procedures to the loan contracts. More information on the definitions of the 100 variables and the coding rules and procedures can be found in Appendix IV of How China Lends. You can also read about the methodology and project background.

How can I find more information on what is contained in the loan contracts?

The full text of the 100 Chinese loan contracts, as well as the 142 comparison contracts from non-Chinese lenders, is accessible through the online repository above. The contracts can be searched by lender, borrower, sector, and contract clause. 

For in-depth analysis of these contracts, see the How China Lends report.

The authors of the report have also released the underlying dataset that underpins their analysis. It captures the financial characteristics (e.g. principal, interest, currency, maturity, amortization schedule, collateral, guarantees) and non-financial characteristics (e.g. seniority, confidentiality, events of default, termination and cancellation rights, governing law, and sovereign immunity) of the loan contracts. Download the full dataset online. 

For inquiries from the media about the contents of a specific loan contract, please contact the individuals below. For general inquiries, please reach out to  

Media Contacts

AidData at William & Mary

Alex Wooley

Partnerships and Communications Director

+1 757-585-9875

Center for Global Development

Jeremy Gaines

Deputy Press Secretary

+1 202-416-4058

Kiel Institute for the World Economy

Mathias Rauck

Press Officer

+49 (431) 8814-411

Peterson Institute for International Economics

Michele Heller

Media Relations and Communications Manager

Georgetown Law

Tanya Weinberg

Director of Media Relations

+1 202-577-7827