AIIB | China wants to compel U.S. to engage it as an equal partner in AIIB

China wants to compel U.S. to engage it as an equal partner in AIIB

M.K. Bhadrakumar March 26, 2015 7:48 AM (UTC+8)
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The AIIB Charter is still under discussion. The media report that China is not seeking a veto in the decision-making comes as a pleasant surprise.

Equally, China is actively consulting other founding members (who now include U.K., Germany, France, Italy, etc). These would suggest that Beijing has a much bigger game plan of scattering the U.S.’ containment strategy. Clearly, the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade deal is already looking more absurd if China were to be kept out of it. The point is, AIIB gives financial underpinning for the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative, which now the European countries and Russia have embraced, as they expect much business spin-off.

China has said that its Silk Road projects are not to be confused as a latter-day Marshal Plan for developing countries, and that, on the contrary, the projects will be run on commercial terms. Which opens up enormous opportunities for participation by western companies. In geopolitical terms, therefore, China hopes that the ‘win-win’ spirit that permeates the AIIB and ‘Belt and Road’ will render ineffectual the American attempts to hem it in on the world stage and compel Washington to revisit a ‘new type of relations’ with China.

As for Bretton Woods, to my mind, China hopes that AIIB will force the pace of IMF reforms (which are stalled at the U.S. Congress for the past 4 years). China’s intention is not to destroy the current financial system but to seek a greater role for it in the decision-making and running of the institutions such as World Bank and IMF. China hopes to force a rethink on the part of the US as regards the IMF (ie, expand and reform the institution, accommodate the renminbi and so on.)

All things considered, therefore, I will not be surprised at all if at some point China decides to invite the U.S. to join the AIIB. The bottom line is that, increasingly as more and more indications of Chinese thinking become available, it appears to me that the AIIB is not really intended as an anti-American move (as many have caricatured it), but is more of an initiative that aims at compelling the U.S. incrementally to engage China as equal partner. China went the extra league to attract the western countries to join the AIIB, as that would put pressure on Washington. Indeed, there is much criticism within the U.S. itself that the Obama administration goofed up on the AIIB by clumsily attempting to throttle it in its cradle without comprehending the real thrust of the Chinese initiative – and getting splendidly isolated in the bargain.

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M.K. Bhadrakumar
MK Bhadrakumar served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for over 29 years, with postings including India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-1998) and to Turkey (1998-2001). He writes the “Indian Punchline” blog and has written regularly for the Asia Times since 2001.
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