The UK joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to serve its own interests, not support China

Illustration: Chia Cheng/Global Times

Danny Alexander, former First Secretary to the UK Treasury and Vice President for Policy and Strategy at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), sparked a new wave of criticism of the UK’s membership of the multilateral lender when he spoke about it. How the bank paved the way for “European-China cooperation, investment in construction projects around the world” and conveyed a “message of hope.”

Britain’s Telegraph quickly jumped to the news, claiming in an article on Sunday that “British support for China’s global ambitions is cause for concern”. The article described the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as a “Chinese competitor to the World Bank” and claimed that British support for the bank “faces fresh criticism as it faces allegations of Chinese colonialism”.

These are very harsh words for a multilateral bank focused on infrastructure projects in developing countries. But such accusations are at best sheer provocation and at worst a poor attempt to undermine global cooperation. China has proposed the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, but the bank has more than 100 members, including the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada. No honest person would see the AIIB as a project for China solely to pursue its “global ambitions” unless blinded by ideology.

Against the background of the rapid growth of emerging economies, China has proposed the creation of a multilateral bank with a strong focus on financing infrastructure projects across Asia, bridging the major infrastructure financing gap in the region. The idea had the support of many countries, including the United Kingdom, because it was a huge opportunity. For the UK, which has a finance-based economy, joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank will help traditional financial power to maintain its advantages, particularly in the post-Brexit era.

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The US is also fueling criticism of the UK’s membership in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Washington has made no secret of its dismay at the choice of London in the first place, with US officials claiming that they are “concerned about the trend of continued accommodation with China, which is not the best way to take advantage of a rising power.” Financial Times. .

It is safe to say that the UK did not choose to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to “accommodate” China or support China’s “ambitions”; Instead, I clearly realized that it was a great opportunity to participate in the crucial stage of economic development for the emerging economies of Asia, which will give a great impetus to the future economic growth of the century.

London seized the opportunity in March 2015 and applied to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank before it officially opened in 2016. Along with the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Austria, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand are all founding members of the bank.

Despite its strong focus on Asia, the multilateral bank does not limit its development within the continent. As of October 2021, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has approved 147 projects with a cumulative investment of more than $28.97 billion, benefiting 31 regional and non-regional members. It also registered 104 accredited members, 11 of whom are from Africa.

The bank kept the door open for both advanced and emerging economies around the world. Any voice from the West questioning any membership or any project financed by the Bank will not hinder the Bank’s mission or momentum.

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As China acts as a major engine of global economic growth and the center of the international economy is tilted towards Asia, a reasonable change is expected in the global financial system formerly dominated by the United States to make it fairer and more beneficial to the economy. to make the country. . emerging economies.

Rather than fearing a long-term loss of dominance or worrying about a weakening of confidence, Western countries like the UK should increase their participation in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and other multilateral efforts aimed at boosting emerging economies, or else they will be left out all together.

The author is editor of the Global Times. [email protected]

Megan Vasquez

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