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19 Jan 2023

Boston University Global Development Policy Center

Policy Brief | “Small is Beautiful”: A New Era in China’s Overseas Development Finance?

The China’s Overseas Development Finance (CODF) Database, managed by the Boston University Global Development Policy Center, recorded 28 new loan commitments in 2020 and 2021 worth a combined value of $10.5 billion, the lowest in recent years.

A new policy brief shares insights on the state of China’s overseas development finance from 2008-2021 and how borrowers, sectors and loan types have changed over the years.

  • Top ten borrowers: China’s development finance has been concentrated among its top ten borrowers — Angola, Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Ecuador, Iran, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Russia and Venezuela — which account for $296.3 billion, or 59 percent, of total loan commitments.
  • Top three sectors: The top three sectors for China’s development finance are extraction and pipelines, transport and power, accounting for $331 billion, or 66 percent, of total loan commitments.


  • Project overlap with environmentally sensitive territories declines: From 2018-2021, projects supported by Chinese development finance with geographic footprints have become much less likely to overlap with sensitive territories. In this period, 66 percent of finance for specific projects with geographic footprints had no overlaps with critical habitats, Indigenous peoples’ lands or national protected areas. This shift is a positive trend for conservation and Indigenous peoples’ rights.