China’s leadership in fostering and financing infrastructure investment for a sustainable and dynamic future


A previous draft of this report was published as a background paper submission to the China Development Forum 2017. An 8-page summary policy brief is also available. 

Headline issue

China is taking an active leadership role in a new global agenda that has sustainable infrastructure at its heart – an agenda that is starting to address the severe structural and environmental stresses that have followed seven decades of socioeconomic achievement. China is managing its own transition into a stage of robust but slower economic growth while committing to environmental and climate actions, with lessons for the rest of the world.

Key messages

  • China recognises that to delay action on climate change would be deeply dangerous. Its 13th Five-Year Plan and nationally determined contribution to meeting the Paris Agreement targets commit China to act.
  • China is entering a new phase of slower but more sustainable growth. It is transitioning away from coal and towards domestic renewable energy, and becoming a leader in the manufacture of renewable energy components.
  • China’s experience provides lessons for both developed and developing countries. Its growing influence in existing multilateral institutions, and its actions to foster new development banks, will help disseminate lessons from its rapid growth and how sustainable infrastructure can lead future growth.
  • China is fostering growth through sustainable infrastructure across the world. Chinese investment in infrastructure has been at the rate of about 12 per cent of GDP. It builds and finances more infrastructure in other developing countries than all multilateral development banks (MDBs) and OECD countries combined. And it has created new MDBs with the potential to lead the transformation of the world’s infrastructure.
  • China shows leadership beyond financial investment. China is a major advocate for the World Trade Organization and a champion of international trade and openness. And China has begun to lead the world on climate through its actions at home and its key role in creating, bringing into force and carrying forward the Paris Agreement. President Xi Jinping’s speech in Davos on 17 January 2017 set out a vision of an integrated, open and collaborative world, finally making China’s global leadership role explicit and recognised.