In the article “China, the EU and multilateralism: the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank”, published in the issue 1/2018 of Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional (v. 60, n. 1), Ricardo Bustillo and Maiza Andoni, both from the University of the Basque Country, discuss the underlying forces that led to the creation of the AIIB and how it relates to the current established financial architecture. They analyze how the launching of the AIIB has generated a diplomatic conflict between China and the United States, on the one hand, and, on the other, how relevant the support from European Union countries not only for the AIIB but also for China’s view of global governance was.
Basing their assessment on the Hegemonic Transition Theory, Bustillo and Andoni conclude that the AIIB cannot be interpreted as a step towards hegemonic transition, but as progress towards a more multilateral financial world order. The authors were interviewed by Bruna Bosi Moreira, PhD candidate at the Institute of International Relations of the University of Brasilia, regarding their article.
1) In your article, you highlight the similarities in China’s view of governance and multilateralism with that of the European Union and how this has fostered cooperation. Do you think the differences in values between the two and the Chinese political regime might affect this cooperative relationship in the long term? How?
We consider that, in the long term, the relationship between the European Union and China will experience several ups and downs and that they will have both progress and setbacks. Both of them oppose to USA’s unipolar hegemonic vision, and they both share strategic economic interests. Trade and investment agreements represent the central pillar of the relationship, and both partners will join forces to defend their interests from any opposing interference.
Indeed, EU Members have criticised the Chinese political regime, mainly as it refers to the respect of human rights, but the EU has preferred to include this sensitive subject as a part of a package of measures that, expectedly, will bring China closer to European values. Of course, we do not exclude the arising of bilateral disputes about specific issues, but we think that they will be probably caused by economic disagreements, as it was the case with the concession of the Market Economy Status to China. EU member states will probably consider economic interests more relevant than the respect towards human rights inside China, as it has happened until now.
2) It seems that the Trump administration’s attitude towards multilateralism has been reinforcing China’s role in several international realms. How do you think this “Trump effect” impacts the financial architecture?
The main characteristic of the “Trump effect” is that it increases substantially the degree of uncertainty in the international arena. Decisions to be taken by Washington are increasingly unpredictable which makes the USA a less reliable partner. This attitude reinforces the role of the other principal world leaders, including the EU and China. As it concerns the international financial architecture, we think that USA’s refusal to admit a higher involvement of China in USA led institutions has paved the way to promote a new set of institutions, but this is a policy adopted long before Trump’s arrival to the presidency.
3) Regarding international organizations, you present a Chinese approach that is twofold: the reform of the traditional organizations and the launching of new ones and you conclude your article with the following: “[…] the creation of the AIIB should simply be labelled a progress towards a more multilateral financial world order”. What challenges and opportunities for the AIIB can be drawn from this conclusion?
The adoption of transparent and standard international rules has been one of the main challenges for the acceptance of the AIIB. Very often, China’s initiatives generate some fear whatever their nature or their objective, only because a world leader different from the USA and Europe has proposed them. When the AIIB was launched several authors and policymakers considered that the initiative represented a step to build an alternative structure and that it was a challenge to traditional institutions.
Nonetheless, we are witnessing a growing collaboration between the AIIB and the other central financing institutions, including the World Bank, so that finally the new institution seems to have reinforced the multilateral financial scheme. Taking into account that traditional institutions had reduced their level of involvement in the financing of developing countries’ needs, the AIIB has emerged at the right moment to channel China’s resources to these countries. As mentioned above, the main challenge regarding AIIB future management is to continue employing standard international rules, as well as to foster its relationship with the other world multilateral development banks. The opportunity must be to make AIIB a valid instrument to finance investment projects among Asian developing countries, and not a mere strategic tool to display China’s higher level of influence in international affairs.
Read the article
Bustillo, Ricardo, & Andoni, Maiza. (2018). China, the EU and multilateralism: the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, 61(1), e008. Epub July 16, 2018.https://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0034-7329201800108
About the authors
Ricardo Bustillo – University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU, Applied Economics V, Bilbao, Spain (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Maiza Andoni – University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU, Applied Economics I, San Sebastian, Spain (email@example.com)
Bruna Bosi Moreira is a PhD Candidate at Institute of International Relations at University of Brasilia and member of the editorial team of RBPI.
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