Last week we pointed out an opinion piece by senior Trump advisor James Woolsey that offered some preliminary insights into a potential China policy for the new administration. Among Woolsey’s critiques of President Obama’s approach was his opposition to the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which the U.S. stubbornly refused to join. Rather than opposing such efforts, Woolsey suggested, the U.S. should encourage China’s expanding role in international institutions.The head of the bank seems to have taken that message to heart, and is now suggesting that the United States could join the investment bank it once spurned. Reuters:
The head of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) said the United States could rethink its reluctance to become a partner in the China-backed multilateral lender following Donald Trump’s election as president, the People’s Daily reported on Monday.“I have heard a certain senior official of the President Barack Obama speak good of the AIIB and after Donald Trump won, I was told that many in his team have an opinion that Obama was not right not to join the AIIB,” AIIB president Jin Liqin said in an interview with the official newspaper.“So we can’t rule out the new government in (the) U.S. endorsing the AIIB or indicating interest to join as member.”
As we noted at the time, the Obama administration’s opposition to the bank, and its subsequent chiding of allies like the UK for joining, was an unproductive policy that prevented us from getting in on the ground floor. Joining AIIB now would not give the United States the same leverage and influence we might have had if we had joined at the start. As the bank’s president pointed out, there will be few shares left for new members after the next batch of countries joins in January. Still, joining the bank could increase America’s financial influence in Asia and send a signal that the United States need not obstruct China’s peaceful rise. Whether such an approach will pay off—especially in light of the more contentious policies that a Trump Administration has signaled it is likely to pursue vis-a-vis China—remains to be seen.