How China Lends: Project Background

The How China Lends study is the product of a team of legal scholars, economists and political scientists in the United States and Germany. The loan contracts used in the study were obtained as part of a multi-year data collection initiative undertaken by AidData, a research lab based at William and Mary. Its team of faculty, staff, and research assistants identified and collected electronic copies of 100 unredacted Chinese loan contracts (not summaries or excerpts of these contracts) by combing through debt information management systems, official registers and gazettes, and parliamentary websites of nearly 200 borrower countries. Digitized versions of these contracts are available at AidData’s searchable online repository ( Most contracts are from China Eximbank or China Development Bank. 46% of the loan agreements in the sample are with government entities in Africa; 28% are with government borrowers in Latin America and the Caribbean. The remaining loans in the sample were made to government borrowers in Eastern Europe (11%), Asia (10%), and Oceania (5%). There was no evidence that contracts differ significantly by geographic region.  

The research team coded the terms and conditions of the 100 contracts. In addition to the key financial characteristics of each vehicle (principal, interest, currency, maturity, amortization schedule, collateral and guarantees), they coded non-financial terms that impact sovereign debt contract practice. These include priority (status), events of default and their consequences (including cross-default and acceleration), termination and cancellation, enforcement (including waiver of immunity and governing law), and confidentiality. Alongside the Chinese contracts, the team coded a comparator or benchmark set of foreign debt contracts that consists of 142 loans from 28 commercial, bilateral, and multilateral creditors. These benchmark contracts are from Cameroon, one of the very few countries in which the government has published all of its debt contracts with international creditors of all types. The researchers then compared the lending terms of the 100 Chinese loan contracts with the 142 contracts of 28 benchmark creditors, as well as with the model commercial terms published by the London-based Loan Market Association (LMA). In order to facilitate comparisons between terms and conditions, the researchers developed a standardized set of variables, based on the LMA template for single currency term facility agreements in developing markets.

In addition to the principal authors of the report, over 100 research assistants worked on this project, assembling the database and coding the contracts.