Is China the New World Bank?

SINGAPORE – The Chinese are everywhere. Or, more accurately, Chinese money is everywhere, thanks particularly to the China Development Bank (CDB) and the China Export-Import Bank. As the two institutions responsible for all Chinese overseas financing, they are making waves around the world.

According to The Financial Times, Chinese lending in 2008-2010 surpassed World Bank assistance by approximately $10 billion. By the end of 2010, the CDB’s reach extended to more than 90 countries, whose total indebtedness reached $141.3 billion.

So, is China reshaping the landscape of development assistance? In a nutshell, yes.

Consider the following: Chinese investment in Zambia’s rich copper and coal reserves accounts for 7.7% of the country’s GDP. In Saudi Arabia, the state-owned China Railway Construction Corporation built the Al-Mashaaer Al-Mugadassah light-rail project to ease traffic pressure during the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. There are even said to be plans for an Arctic highway to facilitate trade throughout the polar region.