China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank: Knowns, Unknowns

The Americans and Japanese are holding out, there’s scuffles in Taiwan and the Colombians appear to want a redo of the title. Hurdles aside, China’s 18-month-old plan to start the first new multilateral development lender in decades has won support from governments around the world.

More than 40 countries have applied by Tuesday’s deadline to be founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Now we await details on how the upstart institution will operate. Here is what we know, and what we don’t, so far:

* Who’s in, who’s out?

China, Australia, Egypt, Ukraine, the U.K., France, Switzerland, India, South Korea and the Philippines are among the more than 40 countries seeking to become founding members. The notable omissions -- the U.S. and Japan, which have flagged concerns over standards and governance.

Japan’s finance minister said his country’s stance is “totally unchanged” and the U.S. says its position is to collaborate through existing international financial institutions.

* Where will it be based?

The AIIB’s headquarters will be in China’s capital city, Beijing. The U.S. and Japan dominated ADB is in Manila, while the International Monetary Fund and World Bank are in Washington DC.

* How much will it have?

The AIIB will have start up capital of $50 billion, and is authorized to eventually issue capital of twice that amount.

* Where does the money come from?

Members will contribute based on the size of their economies.

* What will it invest in?

Public works such as roads, bridges and other projects. The ADB estimates that Asia needs $8 trillion worth of infrastructure up to 2020.

* How will it work with existing institutions?

China’s Ministry of Finance has said the AIIB will seek to work with the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other institutions. ADB President Takehiko Nakao said the institution would cooperate with the new Chinese counterpart.

* When will it be up and running?

The final round of talks among founding members is scheduled for May and the AIIB is expected to be fully established by the end of 2015.

* What’s the motto?

“Lean, clean and green”


* A Beijing-Baghdad Railway?

While the bank won’t officially start operations until the end of 2015, the Chinese press is already guessing which project it will fund first. The International Finance News, a publication run by the People’s Daily, has reported that the AIIB will finance a railway line connecting Beijing and Baghdad.

* Beijing’s role and governance?

China’s role as the bank’s biggest shareholder has sparked questions about the influence it plans to yield over decision making. To soothe concerns, Jin Liqun, the man in charge of the bank’s preparation, has said China won’t act as “the Big Brother.”

* How will loan decisions be made?

Details on the lending decision process have yet to be made public. Jin Liqun has said the bank will seek to follow international standards.

(An earlier version of this story was corrected to fix the name of AIIB in the fifth paragraph.)

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