UK Announces Plan to Join the Chinese-Led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

On March 13, 2015, the United Kingdom announced that it plans to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a multilateral lending institution that is positioning itself as a potential rival to the World Bank (at least in the region).  The United States has been pressuring its allies against joining the AIIB over a range of concerns, including its subpar governance standards and the strategic agenda that the institution appears set to advance.  UK Chancellor George Osborne said that the UK government hopes the move will strengthen relations with China and provide UK businesses with better opportunities to invest in Asian markets.  China and 20 other countries signed a memorandum of understating to establish the bank in October 2014.  China has committed to provide $50 billion in seed capital.

This decision by the UK provides AIIB with a dose of Western credibility and prestige that is troubling, given the questionable strategic underpinnings of the institution and the role that many believe it is being established to play: notably, to serve as a soft power projection vehicle set to strengthen the geopolitical influence of China across the region.