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UNFORGIVEN

Will China’s debt diplomacy survive the Covid-19 era?

Workers stand next to a tunnel during the relaunch of the East Coast Rail Link in Malaysia, financed by China's Export-Import Bank.
AP Photo/Vincent Thian
It’s always infrastructure week.
  • Tim Fernholz
By Tim Fernholz

Senior reporter

An airport in Indonesia. A hydro-electric dam in Pakistan. A gas pipeline in Russia.

The Chinese government is funding these infrastructure projects, and many more. ‘One Belt, One Road,’ a portfolio of infrastructure investment modeled vaguely on the old Silk Road, is the poster-child for this effort, even though observers find it an ambiguous label, not easily distinguished from the rest of China’s lending. In recent years, Beijing has become the single largest lender to poor economies seeking to emulate China’s export-driven path to an explosion of economic growth.

Instead, with the coronavirus pandemic, many of these same countries are facing a recession.

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