Essays on Chinese Foreign Lending

Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

Rosenbluth, Frances


What does the rise of Chinese lending to foreign governments mean for developing and developed countries? Recent progress in cataloguing Chinese loans and describing their differences from Western-led lending has not led to greater consensus among answers to this question. Broad frames such as ``debt-trap diplomacy'' have been criticized for overstepping their bounds of empirical support, while narrower studies frequently treat China as sui generis, rather than connecting their findings to open debates in political economy. Drawing on newly-developed methodology and original data collection, this dissertation refines our understanding of the causes and consequences of Chinese foreign lending. Specifically, I show: (1) that loans for infrastructure projects are capable of providing balance of payments support, and effectively substitute for IMF assistance; (2) that lending from state-owned banks is affected by principal-agent problems in state-owned enterprises, but China's marquee multilateral bank is insulated from such pressure; and (3) infrastructure lending and investments in media companies are effective material means by which the Chinese government has shaped foreign media depictions of itself. Each empirical chapter connects the Chinese case to more general debates about intergovernmental organizations, business interests in politics, and international image management. Together, they shed light on underexamined facets of China's global engagement.

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