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China’s Debt Fight Has High Stakes

File image of outgoing World Bank President David Malpass who will leave office one year ahead of schedule. Jim WATSON / AFP

We’ve covered Chinese lending to the Global South through the boom days of the BRI and the current debt busts cratering Zambia, Sri Lanka and other economies. One of the things we’ve learned is that China plays a weird dual role in the global development finance landscape. First, Chinese lending has in some ways been transformative, offering poor countries a whole new set of options, some leading to development benefits and some straight over the cliff.

But this transformative role also fits into a wider context still largely dominated by Western power. Western officials love to complain about China’s disruptions to debt reform processes and in many cases, they have a point. But the huge stake Western-led multilateral lenders and private creditors have in these crises remains unsaid and (by Western officials at least) weirdly unsayable.

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