The Rise of Patient Capital: The Political Economy of Chinese Global Finance
35 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2018 Last revised: 2 Feb 2018
Date Written: February 1, 2018
As the United States has retreated from its lead role in globalization -- first because of the 2008 financial crisis, and now under President Donald Trump’s leadership -- China has become a major global financial player. China, as the world’s largest saver, has rapidly expanded its cross-border lending since the crisis, more than doubling its overseas banking presence. What are the implications? I contend that China’s state-led capitalism is an important form of patient capital, characterized by a longer-term horizon. While technically classified as mobile capital, its higher risk tolerance and geopolitical shrewdness make state-owned capital less likely to swiftly exit debtor countries. Compared to traditional mobile capital, debtor governments thus gain more policy freedom, particularly during hard times when Western creditors might otherwise impose austerity and other onerous policy conditions. Employing an originally constructed dataset, the China Global Financial Index, I conduct an econometric test across 15 Latin American countries from 1990-2015. I find that Chinese state-to-state lending reduces governments’ reliance on conditionality-linked Western financing, giving them more autonomy to use budget deficits to intervene in their economies. This effect is also contingent on partisanship, with extreme, or populist left governments being most likely to enhance their budgetary discretion. These results suggest that Chinese financing could be a development opportunity, but only if governments invest wisely. Otherwise, by lending without policy conditions, China may be encouraging developing country governments to spend without bounds, sowing the seeds for future debt problems.
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