Skip to main content

Where Does China Borrow Money From?

China has emerged as one of the world’s leading economic superpowers, with a massive population, a booming manufacturing industry, and a rapidly growing consumer base. However, this growth has come with a significant need for investment and financing.

As a result, China has become one of the world’s largest borrowers, relying on a combination of domestic and international sources to fund its ambitious economic goals.

Understanding where China borrows money from is not only essential for understanding its economic growth but also for understanding its position in the global economy.

In this blog post, we will explore the sources of China’s borrowing, including both domestic and international sources, and analyze the potential risks and benefits of its reliance on borrowing.

Where Does China Borrow Money From?

China borrows money and incurs debt from a variety of sources, both domestic and foreign. However, China is also a major lender to other countries and is the largest holder of foreign exchange reserves in the world.

Some of the countries that China has borrowed money from in the past include Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom. In recent years, China has also borrowed heavily from international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Additionally, China has engaged in large-scale infrastructure investments in other countries through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has resulted in substantial debt to Chinese lenders in some of the countries involved in the initiative.

China’s Borrowing From Domestic Sources

How China’s Domestic Borrowing Has Grown Over The Years

China’s domestic borrowing has undergone a remarkable expansion in recent years, as the country has pursued ambitious infrastructure projects and other economic initiatives. The Chinese government has relied heavily on state-owned banks and local governments to finance these projects, resulting in a surge in domestic borrowing. In fact, since the 2008 global financial crisis, China’s domestic debt has more than quadrupled, reaching over 300% of its GDP by the end of 2020.

One reason for this growth is China’s emphasis on infrastructure development, which has required massive investments in areas such as transportation, energy, and housing. To fund these projects, the Chinese government has issued bonds and other forms of debt, which have been purchased by state-owned banks and other financial institutions. Local governments have also borrowed heavily to fund their own infrastructure projects, contributing to the overall increase in domestic debt.

Another factor driving China’s domestic borrowing is its efforts to stimulate economic growth, particularly in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. To support the economy, the Chinese government has implemented various stimulus measures, such as tax breaks and subsidies, which have required significant funding. These measures have contributed to the growth of domestic borrowing and have helped to drive China’s overall economic growth in recent years.

Despite the benefits of China’s domestic borrowing, there are also concerns about the sustainability of this trend. Some experts worry that China’s reliance on debt to fund infrastructure projects and economic growth could lead to a financial crisis if the debt becomes unmanageable. In addition, the government’s control over the banking system and other financial institutions has raised questions about the transparency and accountability of China’s domestic borrowing practices. Overall, while China’s domestic borrowing has fueled impressive economic growth, it remains a complex and closely watched aspect of the country’s economy.

Different Domestic Sources Of Borrowing

China’s domestic borrowing is mainly driven by two major sources: state-owned banks and local governments. These entities have played a critical role in financing China’s infrastructure projects and economic growth initiatives.

State-owned banks are at the forefront of China’s domestic borrowing, with the four largest banks – Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Agricultural Bank of China, and Bank of China – holding around 40% of the country’s total banking assets. These banks have a close relationship with the government and are often used as a vehicle for funding government projects. They lend to other state-owned enterprises, local governments, and private companies to finance various infrastructure projects such as highways, ports, airports, and power plants. They also provide financing to support industries such as steel and coal, which are considered strategic sectors for the Chinese economy.

In addition to state-owned banks, local governments in China have also emerged as significant borrowers in recent years. Under China’s unique governance structure, local governments have considerable autonomy and often have the power to raise funds through bond issuance. In some cases, local governments have even set up financing vehicles to borrow money for infrastructure projects outside the traditional banking system. These borrowing vehicles are often backed by local government assets and are perceived as safe investments by investors.

However, there are concerns about the risks associated with local government borrowing, particularly regarding the quality and transparency of these loans. Some experts argue that local governments may be taking on too much debt, which could threaten China’s overall financial stability. There have also been cases of fraudulent borrowing vehicles and corruption in local government debt issuance, which could undermine investor confidence in the system.

Overall, state-owned banks and local governments are the primary domestic sources of borrowing in China. While these entities have been essential in driving China’s economic growth, the high levels of debt associated with their borrowing practices have raised concerns about sustainability and financial stability.

How China Has Used Domestic Borrowing To Finance Infrastructure Projects

China’s domestic borrowing has played a crucial role in financing its ambitious infrastructure projects, which have helped to fuel its economic growth over the past few decades. Here are few examples:

  1. High-speed rail: China has invested heavily in its high-speed rail system, which is now the world’s largest. To finance this project, the Chinese government issued bonds and secured loans from state-owned banks. These funds were then used to construct new rail lines, purchase advanced technology, and upgrade existing infrastructure.
  2. Port expansion: China has also invested heavily in its ports to support its growing trade volumes. One example is the Shanghai Yangshan Deep Water Port, which was built with a combination of bank loans and government funding. The port now handles millions of containers each year and has become a vital link in China’s supply chain.
  3. Power generation: China has invested heavily in its power generation capacity to support its growing energy needs. One example is the Three Gorges Dam, which was built with a combination of government funding, bank loans, and bond issuances. The dam now generates enough electricity to power millions of homes and has helped to reduce China’s reliance on fossil fuels.
  4. Urbanization: China’s rapid urbanization has also required significant investments in infrastructure, such as housing, transportation, and public facilities. To finance these projects, local governments have issued bonds, established financing vehicles, and borrowed from state-owned banks. For example, the city of Tianjin used bank loans and bond issuances to finance its Binhai New Area, which includes a high-tech industrial park, an airport, and a seaport.

Overall, China’s domestic borrowing has been essential in financing its infrastructure projects, which have helped to drive its economic growth. However, the high levels of debt associated with these projects have raised concerns about China’s overall financial stability and the potential risks of its borrowing practices.

China’s Borrowing From International Sources

In addition to domestic sources, China also borrows from international sources, including both public and private lenders. Here’s a closer look at China’s international borrowing:

  • Public Lenders: China has borrowed from several international financial institutions, including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). These institutions provide China with low-interest loans to support specific projects, such as environmental protection, infrastructure development, and poverty reduction. China is also a member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and has access to IMF resources in times of financial stress. Another important source of international borrowing for China is bilateral lending from foreign governments. For example, China has received significant loans from Japan, which it has used to finance infrastructure projects such as high-speed rail and water treatment facilities.
  • Private Lenders: China has also turned to private lenders to finance its economic growth. Chinese companies have raised funds through international bond issuances, which have become increasingly popular in recent years. These bonds are issued in foreign currencies, such as U.S. dollars or euros, and are often denominated in large sums. Foreign investors have also invested in Chinese companies through equity investments, such as stocks and shares. These investments provide Chinese companies with the capital they need to expand and grow.

However, there are risks associated with borrowing from international sources, particularly in times of economic uncertainty or global financial instability. If foreign investors lose confidence in China’s ability to repay its debts, it could lead to a significant withdrawal of funds and a sharp decline in China’s economic growth.

Overall, China’s borrowing from international sources has been an important source of funding for its economic growth. While there are risks associated with borrowing from both public and private lenders, China’s growing influence in the global economy means that it is likely to continue to access international borrowing in the years to come.

China’s Relationship With International Organizations

China has a complex relationship with international organizations such as the World Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Here’s a closer look at how China interacts with these institutions:

  • World Bank: China has been a member of the World Bank since 1980 and has received significant loans and technical assistance from the organization over the years. These loans have been used to finance various projects in China, such as infrastructure development, environmental protection, and poverty reduction. However, China has also been critical of the World Bank’s governance structure, which is dominated by developed countries. China has argued that the World Bank should be more representative of the global community and has pushed for reforms to give developing countries more say in the organization’s decision-making.
  • Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank: In recent years, China has taken a more prominent role in the global financial system by establishing the AIIB, which is a multilateral development bank that focuses on infrastructure development in Asia. The AIIB has been viewed by some as a challenge to the dominance of traditional development banks like the World Bank and the ADB. China is the largest shareholder in the AIIB and has used the bank to support its Belt and Road Initiative, which is a massive infrastructure development project that seeks to build trade and transportation links across Asia and beyond. However, the AIIB has also been criticized for its lack of transparency and environmental and social safeguards.

Overall, China’s relationship with international organizations such as the World Bank and the AIIB is complex and evolving. While China has benefited from loans and technical assistance from these institutions, it has also pushed for reforms to make them more representative of the global community. At the same time, China’s growing influence in the global financial system means that it is likely to continue to play a prominent role in shaping the future of these organizations.

Potential Risks And Benefits Of China’s Reliance On Foreign Borrowing

Potential benefits of China’s reliance on foreign borrowing:

  1. Access to additional sources of funding that may not be available domestically.
  2. Diversification of funding sources, which can reduce China’s reliance on any one lender or type of financing.
  3. Increased integration into the global financial system, which can help to expand China’s economic and political influence.
  4. Potential for lower interest rates and longer repayment periods compared to domestic borrowing.

Potential risks of China’s reliance on foreign borrowing:

  1. Exposure to currency and interest rate risks, which can increase China’s vulnerability to global economic fluctuations.
  2. Dependence on foreign lenders, which can limit China’s economic and political autonomy.
  3. Potential for increased debt levels and debt servicing costs, which can strain China’s financial resources.
  4. Political risks associated with borrowing from foreign countries or institutions, including potential interference or pressure from lenders.

It’s worth noting that the benefits and risks of China’s reliance on foreign borrowing will vary depending on the specific lenders, financing terms, and projects involved. China will need to carefully manage its borrowing practices to ensure that the benefits outweigh the risks and that its long-term financial stability is maintained.


In conclusion, China’s borrowing practices are complex and multifaceted, and involve a variety of domestic and international sources. Domestically, China relies heavily on state-owned banks and local governments for financing its various projects, including infrastructure development, environmental protection, and poverty reduction. China has also used domestic borrowing to support its Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to build trade and transportation links across Asia and beyond. Internationally, China has borrowed from both public and private lenders, including the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the China Development Bank. China’s growing influence in the global financial system has led to the establishment of new institutions, such as the AIIB, which has provided China with additional sources of funding for its ambitious projects.

However, China’s reliance on borrowing also comes with significant risks, including higher interest rates, currency and interest rate risks, and political risks. China will need to carefully manage its debt levels and diversify its sources of funding to mitigate these risks and ensure its long-term financial stability.

Despite these challenges, China’s borrowing practices have allowed it to finance its economic growth and achieve significant progress in areas such as infrastructure development, poverty reduction, and environmental protection. Going forward, China will need to continue to balance the benefits and risks of borrowing as it seeks to achieve its ambitious development goals and maintain its status as a global economic powerhouse.