'Hidden debts’ reveal risks of China’s lending spree

(Asia Times, Hong Kong, 23 July 2019) China's US$1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative, along with other foreign funding, has become a magical mystery tour, baffling the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Or, according to critics, a diplomatic car crash waiting to happen. “Compared with China’s dominance in world trade, its expanding role in global finance is poorly documented and understood,” a report released last week by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, noting that "Over the past decades, China has exported record amounts of capital to the rest of the world". Many of these financial flows are not reported to the IMF, the BIS [the Bank for International Settlements] or the World Bank.” China is now the world’s largest creditor. A breakdown of the numbers showed that lending soared to around US$5 trillion by 2018 from roughly $500 billion in 2000, which dwarfs World Bank and IMF credit lines. China is not part of the OECD Export Credit Group, which provides data on long- and short-term trade credit flows. In the past 18 months, the venture has been mired in controversy after being branded a “debt trap” by the US and its key Western allies. The ruling Communist Party has announced plans to expand its anti-corruption campaign to BRI projects. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) had limited involvement in the program but that is starting to change and its Director General for international cooperation has stated “[We aim to] create a network of law enforcement of all these Belt and Road countries”. Asia Times askes "Will this long and winding road finally have flashing warning signs of “debt” and “corruption?” Or will this continue to be a highway to economic hell? BRI nations might want to buckle up for a bumpy ride."