The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has enjoyed considerable success in its young life. The challenge going forward is to translate this resounding political success into operational effectiveness and sound strategy. Given the political dimensions of this new institution, it is also worth considering what it will mean for other MDBs like the World Bank and the ADB. There are large questions of political leadership in the multilateral “system” but also an array of issues on which the AIIB could help shape a new system-wide approach, whether defined by some division of labor among the MDBs or by introducing institutional innovations.
In the face of growing U.S. indifference to multilateral development institutions, China is stepping up. The circumstances around the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) have usefully brought to light a longer trend that will ultimately lead to a diminution of U.S. leadership in the multilateral development system.
Last year, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) management proposed a major financial restructuring that would increase the amount of bank capital available for investment. This proposal offers many benefits in and of itself. But it also creates an opening for additional and complementary changes in governance that would greatly strengthen the bank and would ensure all of the benefits of the restructuring are fully captured. The merger proposal represents a highly credible down payment by the ADB on a set of innovations that can greatly expand the institution’s ability to respond to the region’s needs and opportunities—and in the process, stimulate similar dynamics at other MDBs.
With two major announcements on trade and climate at November’s APEC meetings, the United States and China have leaped into a highly productive bilateral relationship in the economic sphere. It’s all the more striking then to hear the discordant tone struck around the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).