Data Analysis for Transparency and Accountability: Global China Initiative Database Roundup

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

By Bridgette Lang

The Boston University Global Development Policy Center manages a suite of five interactive public databases that collectively track hundreds of billions of dollars in Chinese loans and investment to a variety of sectors, including energy and other infrastructure development. The Global China Initiative within the GDP Center manages and updates these databases in a bid to provide transparent information to aid research, education, policymaking, journalism and accountability with regards to China’s overseas development finance and projects around the world.

Tracking these loans has given GDP Center researchers the ability to study trends and work to understand China’s overseas economic activities. One of the GDP Center’s core values is to create dialogue based on empirical research, hence why these databases are made open and accessible to the public. As a resource, these data projects can help stakeholders discover more about China’s overseas lending in an interactive and engaging way.

The new database methodology guidebook explains how GDP Center experts and partners create, update and maintain these databases on an annual basis. In summary, the data collection method begins with algorithmic and manual data collection, which is then put through a rigorous double verification process involving verification of the loan or project both on the Chinese and recipient side. The projects or loans that pass double verification are then added to our final datasets, which are subject to annual review and updates.

Source: Global Development Policy Center Database Methodology Guidebook, 2021

The table below provides a quick reference as to what each database covers:

Source: Global Development Policy Center Database Methodology Guidebook, 2021

These databases are open knowledge products and we welcome additions and corrections; please reach out to us at

See a summary and links to each of the five databases below:

China’s Overseas Development Finance Database

This interactive database allows users to examine the geolocation of China’s overseas development projects and to explore their proximity to indigenous peoples’ lands, critical biodiversity habitats and national protected areas. Of the 858 loans listed, 615 have specific geographic footprints that appear on the map, and an additional 243 without footprints that are included in the table below the interactive map.

Chinese policy banks provided close to half a trillion dollars in development finance to foreign governments between 2008—2019. With the volume of financing, it is critical to track locations and impacts on local and marginalized populations. Outside of affecting human communities, large infrastructure projects can also affect have ecological impacts on biodiversity. In some cases, projects with Chinese policy bank funding may overlap with multiple categories of socially and ecologically sensitive areas, or none at all. Explore the data and see a summary of the findings.

Chinese Loans to Africa Database

Started by the China Africa Research Initiative at the Johns Hopkins University (SAIS-CARI) in 2007, the Chinese Loans to Africa Database is now managed by the Boston University Global Development Policy Center and has over 20 years of data on lending from China to Africa. The database categorizes loans by country and sectors, such as transport, power, mining, water, defense and others. The data sources include official government documents, contractor websites, fieldwork, interviews and review of media sources.

Between 2000 and 2019, SAIS-CARI estimated Chinese financiers signed 1,141 loan commitments worth $153 billion with African governments and their state-owned enterprises. Loan spending peaked in 2016 with $28.3 billion but has since been on the decline. In 2018 and 2019, Africa received less than $10 billion in loans, and power and mining loans declined sharply. Explore the data and read the policy brief.

China’s Global Power Database

What is the status of electric power projects located around the world involving Chinese overseas capital? Our China’s Global Power Database tracks and displays the capacity of electric power projects involving Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) and policy bank lending. The database also tracks and displays the deal types, Chinese investors/financiers, percentage of ownership by investor, amount of capacity (in MW), type of technology, operating status and the estimated annual CO2 emissions of the power plants.

China has pledged to be net carbon neutral by 2060, but its policy banks and FDI so far continue to finance the construction of new coal plants around the world. At the end of 2018, Chinese capital is involved in upwards of 777 power plants overseas, providing a total of 186.5 GW of power generation capacity. Though China continues to spend in the fossil fuel sector, the country’s domestic CO2 output is expected to decline over the next few years, as it continues to invest in hydropower and wind power. Explore the data and read the policy brief

China-Latin America Finance Database

Updated with 2020 data, the China-Latin America Finance Database co-produced with the Inter-American Dialogue provides up-to-date information on Chinese policy bank loans by country, lender, sector and year to Latin America and the Caribbean.

Since 2005, the China Development Bank (CDB) and Export-Import Bank of China (CHEXIM) have provided more than $137 billion in loan commitments to Latin American and Caribbean countries and state-owned firms. In 2020, for the first time in over a decade, CDB and CHEXIM made no new sovereign finance commitments to Latin American and Caribbean countries. However, alongside shifting political and economic conditions in recipient countries, Chinese companies have increasingly invested in the region through public-private partnerships. Despite the decline in state-to-state finance, China’s policy banks continue to play an important role in facilitating Chinese engagement. Explore the data and read the policy brief.

China’s Global Energy Finance

Our China’s Global Energy Finance Database tracks and displays overseas development finance in the energy sector provided by China’s two global policy banks—the China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China to countries around the world. The database breaks down overseas lending across regions, within countries and by type of energy.

In 2020, Chinese policy banks provided $4.6 billion in financing to foreign governments in the energy sector, increasing the total amount of energy financed by China’s policy banks since 2000 to roughly $245.8 billion. Within Belt and Road Initiative members, Chinese energy financing amounts to $192.5 billion, with the bulk of the funding dispersed between Asia, Europe/Central Asia and Africa. Explore the data and read the policy brief.