Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

China’s checkbook diplomacy has bounced

By Christina Lu

21 Feb 2023 · 4 min read

Editor's Note

Can China collect its debts without hurting its image? FP explains that as China’s borrowers fail to pay, Beijing is transitioning from a lavish investor to a tough enforcer.

In the span of a decade, China has emerged as the developing world’s bank of choice, pouring hundreds of billions of dollars in loans into global infrastructure projects as part of its sprawling Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

But as its borrowers fail to pay up, China is finding that its newfound authority is coming at a price. Eager to recoup its money, Beijing is transitioning from generous investor to tough enforcer—and jeopardizing the very goodwill that it tried to build with initiatives such as the BRI. China has broken a few bones in Sri Lanka, whose financial turmoil allowed Beijing to seize control of a strategic port, and is hassling Pakistan, Zambia, and Suriname for repayment.

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