This paper shows that China has launched a new global system for cross-border rescue lending to countries in debt distress. We build the first comprehensive dataset on China’s overseas bailouts between 2000 and 2021 and provide new insights into China’s growing role in the global financial system. A key finding is that the global swap line network put in place by the People’s Bank of China is increasingly used as a financial rescue mechanism, with more than USD 170 billion in liquidity support extended to crisis countries, including repeated rollovers of swaps coming due. The swaps bolster gross reserves and are mostly drawn by distressed countries with low liquidity ratios. In addition, we show that Chinese state-owned banks and enterprises have given out an additional USD 70 billion in rescue loans for balance of payments support. Taken together, China’s overseas bailouts correspond to more than 20 percent of total IMF lending over the past decade and bailout amounts are growing fast. However, China’s rescue loans differ from those of established international lenders of last resort in that they (i) are opaque, (ii) carry relatively high interest rates, and (iii) are almost exclusively targeted to debtors of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. These findings have implications for the international financial and monetary architecture, which is becoming more multipolar, less institutionalized, and less transparent.
- Date Posted:
- March 28, 2023
Dollar deposits in U.S. banks are now de facto fully protected by the U.S. government, but that protection does not extend to the trillions of dollar deposits in foreign banks. The dollar is unique in that there is an extensive network of foreign banks that offer dollar banking services throughout the world. These banks take dollar deposits and make dollar loans but are outside the purview and protection of U.S. regulators. They are supervised by their home country regulators, who usually do not and cannot offer insurance on dollar deposits. Note that even the U.S. branches of foreign banks tend to be uninsured by the FDIC. Concerns over large foreign banks could easily spark a realization that dollars can only be safe within the U.S. That would be a crisis that could not be easily papered over.