Foreign Policy Digital

China’s Provinces Can’t Afford Beijing’s Development Plans

Rising local debt is making the Chinese economy even more fragile.

Huge infrastructure projects are not always symbols of power and affluence. They often hide a sense of fear and insecurity. More than 2,000 years ago, for example, during the Qing dynasty, nomadic incursions from Inner Asia led to the construction of the Great Wall. Now, concerns about a slowing economy have pushed Beijing to undertake a massive economic stimulus program, worth more than $160 billion, with a special focus on investment in subways, roads, and railways.

However, just as the Great Wall did not stop the barbarians from raiding China’s countryside, so these infrastructural projects will do little to propel the Chinese economy. Instead, they

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