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Op-Ed

Lifting the Veil: Book Review of China’s Superbank

Erica S. Downs

What do the Three Gorges Dam, local-government investment companies (LICs), the China-Africa Development Fund, Huawei’s transformation into a global player, China’s world-beating solar technology companies, and the issuance of tens of billions of dollars in energy-backed loans all have in common? They were financed by China Development Bank (CDB), one of China’s most powerful institutions and an increasingly important player on the world stage.

Despite CDB’s central role in developing China’s economy and bankrolling the international expansion of Chinese companies, China’s biggest policy lender rarely makes an appearance in most English-language chronicles of the country’s economic rise. All the more reason then to praise a superbly researched new book, written by two Beijing-based reporters for Bloomberg, in which CDB finally makes a star turn. In China’s Superbank: Debt, Oil and Influence—How China Development Bank is Rewriting the Rules of Finance, Henry Sanderson and Michael Forsythe chart CDB’s transformation from an ATM for officials financing pet investment projects into “the world’s most powerful bank.” Lifting the veil on one of global finance’s least understood institutions, the book is essential reading for anyone seeking insight into the workings of Chinese state capitalism.

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