China launches new AIIB development bank as power balance shifts

Sun Jan 17, 2016 4:02am EST
 
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By Sue-Lin Wong

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping launched a new international development bank seen as a rival to the U.S.-led World Bank at a lavish ceremony on Saturday, as Beijing seeks to change the unwritten rules of global development finance.

Despite opposition from Washington, U.S. allies including Australia, Britain, German, Italy, the Philippines and South Korea have agreed to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in recognition of China's growing economic clout.

"Asia's financing needs for basic infrastructure are absolutely enormous," Xi said in a speech at the launch, adding the bank would aim to invest in projects that were "high-quality, low-cost".

In order for Asia to continue to be the most dynamic region for global growth, it needs to invest in infrastructure and connectivity, Premier Li Keqiang said, during the afternoon session of the opening ceremony.

The AIIB is expected to lend $10 billion-$15 billion a year for the first five or six years and will start operations in the second quarter of 2016.

"We already have a very good pipeline of co-financing projects (with other international development banks) and stand alone projects," Jin Liqun, AIIB president, told journalists on Sunday, adding that while loans would be made in U.S. dollars, the bank may raise capital in other currencies including the euro and yuan.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) unveils a sculpture during the opening ceremony of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in Beijing, China, January 16, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Schiefelbein/Pool