Mapping China's Global Investments and Inequality
Geocoded Chinese Development Projects and the Diffusion of Economic Activity
AidData's Geocoded Global Chinese Official Finance, Version 1.1.1
This dataset geolocates Chinese Government-financed projects that were implemented between 2000-2014. It captures 3,485 projects worth $273.6 billion in total official financing. The dataset includes both Chinese aid and non-concessional official financing.
How Are Nighttime Lights Geographically Distributed?
West Africa’s shifting nighttime coast
How do patterns of nighttime light change over time on the West African coast? Toggling the slider reveals differences between 2012 (left) and 2016 (right) that may be subtle from space but significant on the ground. Some cities have become brighter than others; increased economic activity along roads appears as glowing lines, like those that connect Ghana's coast to the interior; and clusters of fishing vessels swarm near different ports.
By analyzing high-resolution satellite images like these of nighttime light intensity, we are able to estimate economic activity and growth at the local level. This measurement is especially useful in remote, poor, and conflict-prone areas that lack reliable census, survey, and administrative data.
But since economic progress is often uneven, it’s not just the amount of nighttime light within a given area that matters. The geographical distribution of nighttime light also tells us something about how widely or narrowly the benefits of economic growth and development are being shared.
Photos by NASA’s Earth Observatory. Map by Soren Patterson for AidData.
Measuring Economic Inequality with Nighttime Lights
Infrastructure impacts on inequality
Using annual data on nighttime lights, we calculate a numerical scole, a Gini coefficient, to consistently measure economic inequality from year to year in more than 32,000 localities around the world.
Each locality receives a score from 0-1. A Gini of 1 represents total economic inequality, where a single square kilometer contains all the economic activity in that locality. A Gini of 0 represents total economic equality, where every square kilometer in that locality has the same level of economic activity. Compare the Gini scores for districts in West Africa (left) to the satellite image of nighttime lights (right). Economic activity is more equally distributed within green and yellow districts, while districts in orange and red are more unequal.
By combining these measures of inequality with new data on the locations of Chinese Government-financed projects worldwide, the Connective Financing report evaluates how Chinese investments are influencing the geographic distribution of economic activity in low- and middle-income countries.
Photo by NASA’s Earth Observatory. Map by Soren Patterson for AidData.
About the Report
Using the most comprehensive dataset of Chinese development project locations ever assembled, a new AidData Working Paper shows that Chinese infrastructure investments narrow economic inequalities within poor countries. Published by a team of economists and political scientists from AidData at William & Mary, Leibniz University Hannover, Heidelberg University, Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg, and Harvard University, the Connective Financing report leverages a new georeferenced dataset of Chinese Government-financed projects worldwide to evaluate how these investments alter the geographic distribution of economic activity within provinces and districts in low- and middle-income countries.
About the Dataset
After releasing the first-ever global dataset of Chinese development projects in October of 2017, AidData embarked on a far-reaching effort to assign precise geographic coordinates to thousands of projects. The result of thousands of hours of geocoding by dozens of research assistants is a first-of-its-kind geocoded global dataset that pinpoints 3,485 Chinese development projects worth USD $273.6 billion implemented in 6,190 locations in 138 countries over a fifteen-year period (2000-2014). This dataset only includes projects that were both recommended for research in the original dataset and projects whose status was completed or implemented.