Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

AIIB not aimed at challenging US

By Xiao Lian ( Updated: 2015-03-31 10:10

AIIB not aimed at challenging US

China's President Xi Jinping (4th R) meets with the guests at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) launch ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in this October 24, 2014 file photograph. [Photo/Agencies]

To the disappointment of Washington, the Beijing-proposed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is expected to have more than 40 founding members, many of them close allies of the United States, by the end of March. Following in the footsteps of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland, Austria have applied to join the AIIB.

Irrespective of what the US believes, these countries and regions are not trying to challenge its leadership in the Asia-Pacific region. Instead, they are eager to maximize their national interests by getting more involved in the booming Asian economy.

For China, the establishment of the AIIB will complement its Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives. After all, the State-owned Export-Import Bank of China invested more in global infrastructure than the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank last year.

Many developing economies in Asia are willing to cooperate with China for infrastructure development to maintain economic growth. In fact, Asia will need infrastructure investment of at least $8 trillion between 2010 and 2020, and the ADB with its annual investment of $10 billion in the region can barely meet that need. This should clear all doubts about the AIIB’s economic importance to Asia.

In effect, it was not until the UK decided to be an AIIB founding member that the US started paying greater attention to the bank. But since the US State Department had “welcomed” China’s proposal, Washington should honor its words and stop trying o create obstacles for the AIIB, especially when there is not much it can do after its ally, the Republic of Korea, decided to become a founding member on March 26.

The top concern of the US, which is the only country to openly oppose the AIIB, is that it might lose the global financial leadership after China gets the veto power in the AIIB. Yet China has proposed that no single member should be empowered to decide for the entire bank. In contrast, the US has been charting most of the vital decisions of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund despite holding less than 20 percent voting stakes in the two global financial institutions.

The global financial crisis of 2008 was a tipping point that accelerated the geo-economic shift from the West to the East where China plays a major role given its more than $10-trillion GDP. To consolidate the Asian economy’s growing economic power, China has no choice but to contribute the lion’s share of the AIIB’s capital. And it’s for reasons other than regional economic development — especially to maintain their geopolitical dominance — that the US and Japan are opposing the establishment of the AIIB.

Rather than disrupting or sabotaging the existing global financial order, the AIIB is expected to work closely with existing multilateral development banks by providing sufficient financial support for Asia’s infrastructure projects. Unlike the World Bank and the ADB, which are aimed at reducing poverty yet not financially sound to support large-scale infrastructure projects, the AIIB will focus on the latter and play a complementary role in the world economy.

Therefore, Washington should abandon its economic stance that is based on the Cold War mentality and stop seeing the AIIB as a challenge to its interests in Asia.

The author is a researcher at the Institute of World Economics and Politics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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