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ECONOMY

China State Banks Provide Over $400 Bln of Credits to Belt and Road Projects

By Peng Qinqin and Denise Jia

(Beijing) -- China’s three biggest state-owned banks provided a total of $225.4 billion (1.56 trillion yuan) in credits by the end of 2016 for projects in countries participating in President Xi Jinping’s One Belt, One Road initiative.

In addition, the country’s two policy banks, China Development Bank (CDB) and the Export-Import Bank of China, have extended $200 billion in loans to projects in the plan, according to Pan Guangwei, executive vice president of China Banking Association (CBA).

China proposed the One Belt, One Road initiative in 2013 to build infrastructure ties between China and central and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa. Xi will host government and business leaders and scholars from more than 110 countries at a summit on the plan Sunday in Beijing.

Foreign leaders in attendance will include Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang.

Officials from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Bank of China (BOC) and China Construction Bank (CCB) discussed their support for the president’s project at a news briefing Thursday in Beijing. The three banks together have provided loans for more than 800 projects in countries involved in One Belt, One Road, which focuses on infrastructure investment in developing countries with the help of Chinese builders and financiers.

ICBC, the country’s largest lender, committed $67.4 billion in loans to support 212 Belt and Road projects by the end 2016, according to ICBC Vice President Zhang Hongli. BOC provided $67.4 billion in credits, and CCB, $90 billion, bank officials said.

As part of the initiative, Chinese companies in 2016 signed $126 billion in contracts for construction projects and made $14.5 billion in direct investments in countries along the new Silk Road routes, according to the CBA’s Pan.

Over the past four years, nine Chinese banks have set up 62 branches and offices in 26 countries along the routes to better provide funding support.

While banks actively embrace the initiative, Pan said lenders should be aware of the risks of Belt and Road projects, as most of the undertakings require long-term financing without immediate economic returns. Banks should also enhance risk controls to manage foreign exchange and commodity price volatility, he said.

ICBC’s Zhang said the bank hasn’t seen any non-performing loans in the Belt and Road projects. Sun Ping, vice president of the Exim Bank of China, said his bank has established risk-control mechanisms and set an upper limit of debt for each country.

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