Economic integration among Asian countries will be accelerated by more European nations joining the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, according to experts.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said during the first China-Germany high-level economic and financial dialogue in Berlin on March 17 that Germany has decided to apply for founding membership of the bank.
France and Italy have also agreed to follow Britain’s lead and join the international development bank, according to a Financial Times report that quoted European officials.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei did not confirm if the central government has received applications from France and Italy. But he said China is glad to see more countries join the AIIB as founding members, and the bank’s diversified membership will boost the regional economy and promote professionalism and efficiency in investment.
Ding Yifan, an economist at the State Council’s Development Research Center, said that if more European nations join the AIIB, this will strengthen its fundraising ability and the implementation of more infrastructure projects.
“It seems that the AIIB is being equipped with a stronger financial capability, and its ability to plot big infrastructure projects will increase, promoting regional connectivity－the premise of economic integration,” Ding said.
“It is too early to say if better integration and more interaction among Asian countries will lead to a reshuffle in the region and eventually challenge the United States-dominated international financial system. But it is likely, since changes to the international order have all begun gradually,” he said.
China’s Vice-Minister of Finance Shi Yaobin has said that the AIIB will not challenge the roles of the World Bank or Asian Development Bank, as it will focus on infrastructure renovation in Asian countries, rather than poverty reduction.
The bank, proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013 during a visit to Indonesia, could be launched formally by the end of this year, Shi said. All Asian countries can apply to become founding members until March 31.
Zhang Yuyan, director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said on March 17 that Britain and other European countries have profound management experience to share with the AIIB, apart from merely providing financial support.
Mu Chen contributed to this story.