More than a decade after it put forth the idea of the Sovereign Debt Restructuring Mechanism in the early 2000s, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is again seeking to engage various stakeholders in a new round of discussions about improving sovereign debt restructuring. As a major international creditor, China is an important force to reckon with, but thus far, its government has said little publicly regarding the recent IMF reports on this issue. Chinese policy makers and analysts are supportive of the IMF’s attempt to explore ways for earlier and more orderly debt restructuring, but they find the proposed reforms to be only marginally useful. This paper, by CIGI senior fellow Hongying Wang, contends that from China’s point of view, the most important question in debt management is how to prevent excessive borrowing and lending and reduce the likelihood of unsustainable debt. It sees discussions about the mechanisms of sovereign debt restructuring as having little effect on this question. As an international creditor, China’s main concern has to do with safeguarding the value of its overseas assets from the detrimental effect of macroeconomic policies of Western countries, especially the United States, and this issue that cannot be addressed by improved debt restructuring mechanisms. China remains deeply concerned about the power imbalance between developed and developing countries in the international financial system. Going forward in the global dialogue over sovereign debt restructuring, China’s priority will be to minimize international financial instability while protecting the development needs of developing countries. This paper offers a context for understanding China’s policy position, if and when it becomes official, by reviewing Chinese reactions to the last round of debate about sovereign debt restructuring in the early 2000s, and by examining recent Chinese discourse and initiatives regarding sovereign debt management.

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CIGI Papers present in-depth analysis and discussion on governance-related subjects. They include policy papers that present CIGI experts' positions or contributions to policy debates, and background papers that contain research findings, insights and data that contribute to the development of policy positions.
  • Hongying Wang (王红缨) is a CIGI senior fellow and teaches political science at the University of Waterloo. She studies Chinese politics and foreign policy as well as international political economy.