The World, Built by China

By DEREK WATKINS, K.K. REBECCA LAI and KEITH BRADSHER Nov. 18, 2018

topper.jpg

Seven dams generate almost half of Cambodia’s electricity. China built and paid for all of them.

This one, near Cambodia’s southern coast, is about 360 feet tall. It is the fourth-largest by power output in the country.
Sri Lanka borrowed more than $1 billion from China for this strategic deepwater port, but couldn’t repay the money. The port is now controlled by China, which is leasing it for the next 99 years.

Port of Hambantota, Sri Lanka

South Africa turned to China for $1.5 billion for a coal-fired power plant. It is one of at least 63 such plants financed by China around the world, which collectively pollute more than Spain.

Medupi Power Station, South Africa

Zambia tapped China for $94 million to build a soccer stadium of over 50,000 seats. These are among the more than 600 projects around the world that China has financed to win new friends and develop new markets.

Heroes National Stadium, Zambia

China envisions a vast global network of trade, investment and infrastructure that will reshape financial and geopolitical ties — and bring the rest of the world closer to Beijing.

It is a modern-day version of the Marshall Plan, America’s reconstruction effort after World War II, which created a foundation for enduring military and diplomatic alliances. China’s strategy is bolder, more expensive and far riskier.

Its money doesn’t necessarily come with the usual rules. And the cost, for China and its borrowers alike, can sometimes be too high.

We examined nearly 600 projects that China helped finance in the last decade, through billions of dollars in grants, loans and investments. Taken together, they show the scope and motivation of China’s strategy.

41 pipelines and other oil and gas infrastructure help China secure valuable resources.

Oil and gas infrastructure

203 bridges, roads and railways create new ways for China to move its goods around the world.

Bridges, roads and railways

199 power plants — for nuclear, natural gas, coal and renewables — give China new markets for its construction and equipment companies.

We found 112 countries where China has financed projects. While most fall under its infrastructure plan known as the Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing has pushed beyond those boundaries.

Belt and Road countries

are shaded red.

Belt and Road countries

are shaded red.

Belt and Road

countries are

shaded red.

After years of honing its construction skills at home, China is now deploying them abroad, including a series of hydroelectric dams.

Some of the dams that China has helped finance or build around the world.

In terms of power output, many of them approach or exceed the size of the Hoover Dam:

Each circle is

a single power project

Colombia

2,400 MW

Under construction

Angola

2,171 MW

Under const.

Argentina

1,740MW

Under const.

Laos

1,272 MW

Under const.

Pakistan

1,124 MW

Under const.

Hoover Dam

2,080 megawatts

Each circle is

a single power project

Hoover Dam

2,080 megawatts

Each circle is

a single power project

Hoover Dam

2,080 megawatts

Each bar is a

single power

project.

China needs friends. And literal bridges can help build figurative ones.

Large ports in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Malaysia — three countries along a major oil and commerce route from the Mideast and Africa — could someday double as naval logistics hubs.

Area shown on roads map below

Light red lines show

ocean shipping activity.

Dots show ports

China helped build.

Light red lines show

ocean shipping activity.

Dots show ports

China helped build.

Light red lines show

ocean shipping activity.

Dots show ports

China helped build.

Dots show ports

China helped build.

Light red lines show

ocean shipping activity.

Source: Shipping data from University College London Energy Institute.

Beijing is heavily focused on its neighbors, lending them money for extensive road-building projects. Pakistan is running out of money to repay the loans, part of a broader pattern of what critics call China’s “debt trap” diplomacy.

Lines show Chinese

road projects.

Lines show Chinese

road projects.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies.

China has a different view when it comes to labor and environmental strictures. To staff overseas projects, Chinese companies have flown in their own workers by the thousands, drawing complaints that they are doing little to create local jobs. Safety standards have been uneven.

And Beijing continues to export polluting technologies like coal-fired power plants, even as such projects have become unpopular in China.

coal-115979-square.jpg
A 945-megawatt Chinese-built coal-fired power plant near Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

Western governments and multinationals generally steer clear of politically volatile countries. The Chinese government has been less skittish, lending heavily to nations like Venezuela, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

But China’s lending is not usually largess. Countries that run into financial trouble must renegotiate their loans, putting them deeper into debt. Sometimes projects are left in limbo.

Ecuador spent over $1 billion to prepare a site for a $12 billion Chinese refinery that was supposed to be finished in 2013. It’s stalled.

Land cleared for

construction

Land cleared for

construction

Land cleared for

construction

The construction site of Ecuador’s stalled Pacific Refinery project.