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  • Author: Scott Morris, Gailyn Portelance
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: Under the World Bank’s 2018 capital agreement, borrowing countries are expected to gradually reduce their portfolios once a base income threshold—the Graduation Discussion Income (GDI)—is reached. However, the agreement also affirms the case for ongoing lending to these countries. One justification is tied to external value beyond the borrowing country’s borders (global public goods, or GPGs). Another is tied to building capacity within the borrowing country, which can mean a focus on sub-regions where poverty remains high and capacity weak. In this paper, we examine World Bank graduation policies and lending through the lens of China, which maintains a large portfolio of World Bank projects. China currently exceeds the GDI thresholds for IBRD borrowing at the national level, while income inequality within the country leaves many noncoastal provinces below the GDI per capita threshold. Aggregate and provincial-level analysis of World Bank lending in China shows that less than half of China’s portfolio comprises activities clearly linked to GPGs, while a slight majority of projects are based in provinces with per capita income below the GDI threshold. A substantial number of World Bank projects in China focus on climate change mitigation and transportation infrastructure construction, while a smaller number relate to capacity building. Overall, we find evidence that China’s borrowing is broadly consistent with the 2018 principles of institutional capacity strengthening and GPG-related engagement, although significant areas of bank engagement do not appear to fall within the parameters of these principles.
  • Topic: Poverty, Infrastructure, World Bank, Inequality
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Kimberly Singer Babiarz, Paul Ma, Grant Miller, Shige Song
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: Most of China’s fertility decline predates the famous One Child Policy—and instead occurred under its predecessor, the Later, Longer, Fewer (LLF) policy. Studying LLF’s contribution to fertility and sex selection behavior, we find that it i) reduced China’s total fertility rate by 0.9 births per woman (explaining 28% of China’s modern fertility decline), ii) doubled the use of male-biased fertility stopping rules, and iii) promoted postnatal neglect (implying 210,000 previously unrecognized missing girls). Considering Chinese population policy to be extreme in global experience, our paper demonstrates the limits of population policy—and its potential human costs.
  • Topic: Population, Sexuality, Fertility
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Scott Morris
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: The Kunming-Vientiane (K-V) railway, part of the Kunming-Singapore multi-country rail network (or “Pan-Asia Railway”), is an anchor investment of the Chinese government’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI). This case study will assess the rail project along four dimensions: economic implications; procurement arrangements; labor; and environmental and social safeguards. In each of these areas, evidence from the railway project suggests that Chinese policy and practice could be better aligned with the practices of other sources of multilateral and bilateral development finance. Where the project’s standards are broadly aligned, at least in principle, there is nonetheless reason to believe that China’s approach carries heightened risks given the overall scale of financing. These risks hold for China’s global program of official finance, which has made the country the largest source of official credit in the world. In this regard, BRI policymakers should consider a more rigorous set of “best practices” that align Chinese official finance with leading multilateral standards, even if these practices don’t currently characterize many other bilateral lenders. Such an approach would be consistent with the multilateral vision for BRI espoused by Chinese officials and reflected in the framework of the annual Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. This study considers what a stronger set of standards would look like in the context of the four areas of focus.
  • Topic: Infrastructure, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Transportation, Railways
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Brad Parks
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: It’s 2028. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been underway for 15 years, but the initial enthusiasm and momentum behind BRI has vanished. Many of the governments that initially joined the initiative have publicly withdrawn or quietly wound down their participation. China’s staunchest allies remain engaged but even they have reservations about the wisdom of the initiative. They are saddled with unproductive public investment projects and struggling to service their debts. Domestic public sentiment towards China has soured, and they have come to view their participation in BRI as more of a political liability than an asset. But they worry about the consequences of alienating their most important patron and creditor. China has also assumed a defensive posture. Lacking the goodwill that it possessed at the beginning of BRI, it is now using inducements and threats to prevent its remaining clients from abandoning the initiative. Western donors and lenders watch from the sidelines with a sense of bemusement. They encouraged China to “multilateralize” BRI by establishing a common set of project appraisal standards, procurement guidelines, fiduciary controls, and social and environmental safeguards that other aid agencies and development banks could support. But Beijing chose to go it alone. It opted not to embrace the use of economic rate-of-return analysis to vet project proposals; resisted efforts to harmonize its environmental, social, and fiduciary safeguards with those used by aid agencies and development banks outside of China; and pushed back on the “Western” suggestion that it modernize its monitoring and evaluation practices. China bet that its fast and flexible approach to infrastructure finance would prove to be so compelling that traditional donors and lenders would eventually jump on the bandwagon and co-finance BRI projects. But it miscalculated. Its model was insufficiently attractive on its merits to enlist the participation and support of the other major players in the bilateral and multilateral development finance market. Nor was it sufficiently appealing to sustain elite and public support in partner countries.
  • Topic: Development, International Trade and Finance, Infrastructure, Leadership, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
  • Political Geography: China, Asia