Screw the US: Developing Asia & PRC Infra Bank

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 3/25/2015 01:30:00 AM
Vietnam wants more of these...even if it takes Chinese support.
There's an interesting story at the WSJ that emphasizes a point I wish to make regarding China and its newfangled Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB): Nobody in the region has a particular fondness for China as a rather bullying neighbor that wishes to get its way in territorial disputes it has with nearly everyone else. That said, we are mostly poor countries that could benefit a lot from Chinese largesse. So, despite the US pressuring any and all comers to stay away, we have signed up just as the Europeans did last week. Consider the case of Vietnam, where the popularity of China ranks somewhere alongside that of root canal operations:
Like many Vietnamese, the economist Le Dang Doanh turns darkly suspicious when he speaks about Chinese money. Trade and investment from Vietnam’s giant northern neighbor, says Mr. Doanh, a former top adviser to the Communist Party of Vietnam, often comes with hidden military agendas, economic subterfuge and ecological traps.

A case in point, he says, was a planned Chinese-backed tourist resort to be located at an approach to a strategic mountain pass along the coast—a potential gateway to the country for invaders. Local authorities canceled that project last year because of national security concerns. He also complains that Chinese traders are denuding Vietnam of its rare Star Anise trees by carrying off their roots along with their aromatic flowers used in medicine. China, he concludes, “is really an imperialist country.”

This is why Mr. Doanh believes that a new Chinese-led multilateral development bank is such a clever idea, because it will soothe anxieties as China deploys its vast wealth around the world. Beijing has promised to throw in an initial $50 billion. And Mr. Doanh praises Western powers for breaking ranks with Washington and joining in to raise the bank’s standards. The Wall Street Journal reported that China helped get the U.K., France, Germany and Italy on board by offering to forgo veto power over bank decisions. “It’s a soft approach—very flexible, very intelligent,” Mr. Doanh says.
Contrast China's seemingly popular soft power approach with the 1950s-vintage American one: it's not only a Cold War mentality but a pre-ping-pong diplomacy one to boot:
In opposing the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the U.S. has not only set itself up for a diplomatic rift with its closest Western allies, it’s also dealt a blow to America’s image in developing countries like Vietnam. Emerging economies are desperate for infrastructure, which China can deliver in abundance, but fear being sucked too deeply into Beijing’s orbit. Even vocal critics of China such as Mr. Doanh draw the conclusion that Beijing is trying to balance these concerns with the new bank, while America is stuck in old ways of thinking.

The U.S. Congress refuses to pass additional funding for the International Monetary Fund that is a necessary step toward giving China and other emerging economies more say in decision-making—one reason Beijing has managed to gather such strong support for the infrastructure bank.

More broadly, Washington’s objections support the Chinese narrative of an America trying to thwart China’s rise at every turn. On the one hand, the U.S. urges China to assume greater international responsibilities and burdens. President Barack Obama has criticized Beijing as a “free rider” on the international system. Yet when China steps up with an initiative like the development bank, Washington tries to slap it down.
Chalk this one down to another failure of democracy's checks-and-balances. Political gridlock has rendered the US a non-entity regarding the AIIB as even Vietnam rushes to welcome Chinese cash infusions for infrastructure. Remember, too, that Vietnam has infrastructure-related grievances with China over its upstreaming damming of the Mekong river.