Back in April, China was flying high. The stock market had reached dizzying heights on the back of an unprecedented surge in margin debt, creating billions in paper profits for millions of farmers and housewives turned day traders. Around the same time, Beijing had accidentally pulled off a major diplomatic coup. The China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment bank had just wrapped up a wildly successful membership drive after a surprise decision by the UK to back the new venture opened the floodgates and emboldened other US allies who, despite Washington’s best efforts to convince them otherwise, decided to join up.
The effort to recruit members was in fact so successful, that Beijing went out of its way to dispel the notion that the new bank represented an attempt on China’s part to usher in a new era of yuan hegemony and rewrite the rules of the post-War global economic order.
Despite the Politburo’s best efforts to toe the line between acknowledging the bank’s early success and unnerving Western members who, although happy to participate, are still acutely aware that a dying hegemon is still a hegemon and therefore would prefer it if Beijing didn’t rub the whole thing in Washington’s face, it was abundantly clear to everyone involved that the AIIB represented no less than a changing of the guard and a revolution against the US-dominated multilateral institutions that many emerging countries believe have failed to respond to seismic shifts in the global economy.
Unfortunately for China, the AIIB was forced to take a back seat in terms of media coverage to the country’s dramatic equity market meltdown and, subsequently, to the devaluation of the yuan which, you’re reminded, will play an outsized role in any financing extended by the new lender. But as the carnage in financial markets grabs the headlines, the AIIB is quietly making preparations to officially commence operations and as Reuters notes, China is set to “rewrite the unwritten rules of global development finance” by doing away with certain conditionalities required by Western multilateral lenders. Here’s Reuters with the story: