Summary of Beijing’s Building Boom

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China is dominating global infrastructure investment. Experts variously attribute China’s newfound leadership role to the authoritarian nature of its regime, its assertive foreign policy and the country’s government-subsidized construction industry. As three Stanford scholars argue in Foreign Affairs, however, these factors only explain half of the story. getAbstract recommends the article to managers in the building industry and those interested in China’s geopolitical influence.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why China has overtaken Western lending institutions in financing global infrastructure and
  • Why China is not getting the returns it envisioned on its overseas investments.

About the Authors

Bushra Bataineh is a doctoral candidate in civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University. Michael Bennon is Managing Director of the Global Projects Center at Stanford University. Francis Fukuyama is a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.



China has emerged as the world’s biggest development lender, sidelining Western governments and institutions – such as the World Bank – which have traditionally held that role. The country’s unique approach to infrastructure financing is key to its competitiveness. China deals with investment in foreign infrastructure the same way it handles infrastructure development at home. Beijing has made infrastructure investment a central pillar of its domestic economic development policy and heavily subsidizes its construction industry. Overseas, the country uses infrastructure investments as a way of furthering its economic and geopolitical interests. In so doing, the Chinese have embraced risk. Their tendency to magnify a project’s predicted economic benefits while downplaying less quantifiable factors – including environmental and social impacts – has prompted Chinese lenders to give loans liberally and with few strings attached.

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