The UK has said it intends to be a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a $50 billion China-led initiative that will pump funding into infrastructure projects in the Asia Pacific region.
In doing so, the UK has become the first Western country to step forward as a prospective member. Through a statement from the Treasury, the UK government said it would join discussions later this month with other founding members to agree the bank’s articles of association, setting out governance and accountability arrangements.
The bank intends to finance Asian infrastructure projects using loans, equity and guarantees to boost investment in the transport, energy, telecoms, agriculture and urban development sectors across the region.
The UK’s move appears to have riled the US. A US administration official was quoted in the Financial Times as saying: “We are wary about a trend toward constant accommodation of China, which is not the best way to engage a rising power.”
The US appears to be concerned that the AIIB is effectively a rival to the World Bank and expressed surprised at the UK’s move, although the UK government insisted it had been in regular contact with the US over the move for some months.
The news coincided with Wang Jianlin, China’s richest man, claiming that the UK was now the best country in the world in which to invest.