The Weatherhead East Asian Institute and the Jerome A. Chazen Institute for Global Business are pleased to announce the Twelfth Annual N.T Wang Distinguished Lecture “China is Not a Donor” featuring Deborah Brautigam, Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy and Director of the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University, and moderated by Thomas J. Christensen, James T. Shotwell Professor of International Relations and Director of the China and the World program in the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.
The nature of Chinese lending in risky countries remains poorly understood. Drawing on data on Chinese loans, creditors and contractors, and case studies of Chinese lending in Zambia, Kenya, Montenegro and Sri Lanka, this talk illustrates three areas in which misunderstandings create challenges. First, China is often portrayed as a monolithic, highly coordinated actor. Our research suggests instead that project finance from China can be highly fragmented, uncoordinated, and even chaotic. A second common fallacy is to assume all Chinese funding is “foreign aid” and then compare its terms or impact with funding offered by the World Bank, or bilateral donors. Our research suggests that Chinese foreign aid is a tiny fraction of all Chinese lending; the appropriate “apples to apples” comparisons will often be export credit agencies, private commercial banks, commodity traders, and even Eurobonds. Finally, some journalists, pundits and policymakers have promoted the idea that Chinese banks deliberately lend to risky countries to secure strategic assets. We question the evidence for “debt trap diplomacy” and suggest instead that China Eximbank suffers from “Tazara Syndrome” – a megaproject bias that can be traced back to the iconic African railway of the 1970s.
Dr. Deborah Brautigam is the Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy and Director of the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). A Sinologist with extensive Africa research experience, she is the author of over 50 journal articles and book chapters. Her most recent books include The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa (Oxford UP, 2010) and Will Africa Feed China? (Oxford UP, 2015), and Taxation and State-Building in Developing Countries (Cambridge UP, 2008). Before joining SAIS in 2012, she taught at Columbia University and American University. Her research on China and Africa has been supported by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Centre for Economic Policy and Research (CEPR), and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Thomas J. Christensen is the Interim Dean of SIPA, James T. Shotwell Professor of International Relations and Director of the China and the World Program at Columbia University. He arrived in 2018 from Princeton University where he was William P. Boswell Professor of World Politics of Peace and War, Director of the Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program, and faculty director of the Masters of Public Policy Program and the Truman Scholars Program. From 2006-2008 he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs with responsibility for relations with China, Taiwan, and Mongolia. His research and teaching focus on China’s foreign relations, the international relations of East Asia, and international security. His most recent book, The China Challenge: Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power (W.W. Norton) was an editors’ choice at the New York Times Book Review, a “Book of the Week” on CNN”s Fareed Zakaria GPS, and the Arthur Ross Book Award Silver Medalist at the Council on Foreign Relations.
This event is hosted by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and the Jerome A. Chazen Institute for Global Business, and cosponsored by the China and the World Program at Columbia University.