By JACK CHANG
MEXICO CITY (AP) â¿¿ When Venezuela seized billions of dollars in assets from Exxon Mobil and other foreign companies, Chinese state banks and investors didn't blink. Over the past five years they have loaned Venezuela more than $35 billion.
Elsewhere around the Caribbean, as hotels were struggling to stay afloat in the global economic slowdown, the Chinese response was to bankroll the biggest resort under construction in the Western Hemisphere â¿¿ a massive hotel, condominium and casino complex in the Bahamas just a few miles from half-empty resorts.
All over the world, from Latin America to the South Pacific, a cash-flush China is funding projects that others won't, seemingly less concerned by the conventional wisdom of credit ratings and institutions such as the World Bank.
EDITOR'S NOTE â¿¿ This story is part of "China's Reach," a project tracking China's influence on its trading partners over three decades and exploring how that is changing business, politics and daily life. Keep up with AP's reporting on China's Reach, and join the conversation about it, using the hashtag (hash)APChinaReach on Twitter.
The Chinese money is breathing life into government infrastructure projects that otherwise might have died for lack of financing. For commercial projects such as the Caribbean resort, China is filling a gap left by Western investors retrenching after the 2008 financial crisis.
But some in the Bahamas worry what will happen if the sprawling Baha Mar project fails. They picture an economy saturated with hotels, dragged down by an expensive Chinese white elephant. Likewise, the infrastructure loans are loading financially shaky countries with more debt and letting them avoid economic reforms that other lenders would likely have demanded.
"The Chinese play by other rules," said Kevin Gallagher, a Boston University international relations professor who has studied Chinese lending to Latin America. "We'll give you financing with no conditions, and we'll finance things the International Monetary Fund won't fund, things others won't fund anymore, like big infrastructure projects. It allows countries to shop around, which has good and bad sides."