Bibi Netanyahu’s election, persistent violence through much of the Middle East and North Africa, and intensified efforts to forge a nuclear deal between the P5+1 and Iran topped the news here in Washington this week. But a much bigger story in terms of the future order of global politics was taking place in Europe and Beijing.
The story was simply this: virtually all of the closest European allies of the United States, beginning with Britain, defied pressure from Washington by deciding to apply for founding membership in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). This Chinese initiative could quickly rival the World Bank and the Asia Development Bank as a major source of funding for big development projects across Eurasia.
The new bank, which offers a serious multilateral alternative to the Western-dominated international financial institutions (IFIs) established in the post-World War II order, is expected to attract about three dozen initial members, including all of China’s Asian neighbors (with the possible exception of Japan). Australia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf states are also likely to join by the March 31 deadline set by Beijing for prospective co-founders to apply. Its $50 billion in initial capital is expected to double with the addition of new members, and that amount could quickly grow given China’s $3 trillion in foreign-exchange reserves. More details about the bank can be found in a helpful Q&A here at the Council on Foreign Relations website.