Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

China’s Debt Diplomacy

By Mark Green

25 Apr 2019 · 3 min read

This week, leaders from around the world are descending on Beijing for China’s second Belt and Road Forum, a conference to showcase China’s signature diplomatic initiative. But these leaders should be clear-eyed that China’s efforts to use its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to broaden its geopolitical and economic clout risk saddling developing countries with unsustainable debt while increasing their dependency on China.

The fact that poorer countries struggle with debt is nothing new, but after years of successful efforts to reduce their debt burden—including through the largest debt forgiveness program in history, started under U.S. President Bill Clinton and advanced by the George W. Bush Administration and the international community—they are once again going into the red. Unlike before, developing countries’ strategic assets, such as their resources, mineral deposits, port access rights, and the like, are now targeted by creditors as collateral in many of these predatory deals.

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