Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 April 2022
This chapter provides historical context for China’s evolution into a development banker during the 21st century. The People’s Republic of China has been involved with development finance—as both a recipient and donor of foreign aid and other development flows—since its founding in 1949. This chapter describes earlier efforts by researchers to track Chinese-financed development projects around the world. It then outlines basic shifts in China’s approach to development finance over time, and separates China’s approach to development finance into four stages. During the “Early Years” (1949–1959), revolutionary foreign policy under Mao (1960–1977), and the “Reform Era Recalibration” (1978–1998), important building blocks were set in place that help understand the nature of contemporary Chinese development finance. During the fourth and current phase, beginning with the “Going Out” strategy, China’s government has made the transition from an aid donor to a global development banker. The chapter shows how the benefactor-to-banker shift was a product of China’s long history as a development financier. It also provides an historical framework to help readers disentangle novel features of contemporary Chinese development finance from preexisting motivations, institutions, policies, and practices.