On the march: Chinese soldiers on an island in the South China Sea, January 2016
china stringer network / reuters

In 2013, China launched an initiative to establish a new multilateral development institution, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The AIIB, Beijing argued, could help fill a multitrillion-dollar gap in financing for railways, roads, power plants, and other infrastructure in the world’s fastest-growing region. But the United States treated China’s proposal as a challenge to the existing regional and global development institutions that it had helped establish in the decades after World War II. Washington not only refused to join the bank itself but also launched a quiet diplomatic campaign to dissuade its allies from doing so either.

Washington contended that the new institution could undermine the existing system by offering investment without imposing the anticorruption and environmental standards used by existing groups. And some in Washington also implied that Beijing had a deeper purpose: to construct an alternative set of China-oriented international institutions free from both U.S. dominance and the liberal values espoused by the United States and other industrialized democracies. Many believed that Washington’s stated uneasiness about standards actually masked a geopolitical concern that the bank was the first step in an effort by Beijing to construct a Sinocentric world order.

The U.S. attempt to

To read the full article

  • EVAN A. FEIGENBAUM is Vice Chair of the Paulson Institute at the University of Chicago. He served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia in 2007–9, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central Asia in 2006–7, and a member of the U.S. State Department’s Policy Planning Staff for East Asia in 2001–6. Follow him on Twitter @EvanFeigenbaum.
  • More By Evan A. Feigenbaum