A bridge not far enough

America is wrong to obstruct China’s Asian-infrastructure bank

AMERICA says it welcomes China’s ascent to great-power status, so long as the Chinese respect international norms and play a proper part in the multilateral system. China suspects that, in practice, America tries to hem it in whenever it does anything on the world stage. In the case of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), America seems to be confirming China’s darkest fears: it has adopted a policy of containment that is wrong in principle and has failed in practice.

Flush with the world’s largest foreign-exchange reserves, China plans a new bank to help match Asia’s vast savings with its even vaster need for new bridges, roads and other necessities of development. America dislikes the idea because it thinks the bank will not abide by high standards of creditworthiness and transparency; it also fears the institution will be a vehicle for Chinese influence. Though the Americans say they have not lobbied against the bank, they have put pressure on allies not to join it. When Britain became the first country outside Asia to apply for membership, an American official harrumphed about its trend towards “constant accommodation” of China. That admonition did not stop Germany, France and Italy declaring this week that they too wanted to be founding members.

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