China’s policy banks—China Development Bank (CDB) and China Export-Import Bank (China Ex-Im Bank)—are new leaders in the world of sovereign finance. Within a decade, they have surpassed levels of annual lending by the World Bank and many other counterparts. The Financial Times estimates that China’s policy banks provided some $110 billion in financing to developing countries between 2009 and 2010 compared to the World Bank’s $100 billion. Between 2003 and 2011, these two Chinese banks provided some $79 billion to Latin America, compared with $57 billion by the World Bank, surpassing even the $78 billion lent by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
The Chinese banks’ liberal purse strings have been largely embraced by host country governments that have had trouble accessing international capital markets and lending from the international financial institutions for projects in infrastructure, energy, and mining. Yet some Chinese projects have met with political and social resistance in host countries on grounds that Chinese lending practices do not incorporate adequate social and environmental safeguards.
To help narrow this gap and encourage improved environmental standards worldwide, this policy memorandum identifies Chinese overseas environmental standards and compares them to those of the Western-backed lenders. The memorandum also aims to demonstrate why meeting—and beating—domestic and global environmental standards could be a shrewd business decision for China and its banks.