Ridicule for late decision on AIIB
On March 19, the Beijing News printed a column about the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). “Korea is a loner that has to decide whether to participate in the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank on its own. Over Korea’s entry, China and the United States are engaged in a deciding match. While there is no gun smoke, it is enough to make Korea shiver in fear.” The column added one last blow. “It must be the pressure from the United States. When Western countries, including the United Kingdom, turned their backs on the United States and joined the AIIB, Korea’s betrayal would make the United States a general with no soldiers.” It was derision of a sovereign state at its extreme. But before blaming the media, let’s look at the situation.
It was back in October 2013 when Chinese President Xi Jinping first mentioned the plan to create the AIIB during his Southeast Asian tour. It was a month after he revealed a plan for the “One Belt, One Road” project, a modern Silk Road from land to sea in Kazakhstan. From every angle, AIIB is China’s first Southeast Asian project to build the Silk Road economic bloc. Western media labeled AIIB a strategy to shake up the U.S.-led international financial order.
What about 10 Asean members, which will be the biggest beneficiaries of the new bank? Since early 2014, Asean has been focusing on researching the demand for infrastructure and trade ideas for the Silk Road economic zone, not AIIB. They are also analyzing the China International Capital Corporation’s report that 1.54 quadrillion won ($1.38 trillion) will be invested in the One Belt, One Road project over the next 10 years. Before joining the AIIB in October, each member of Asean issued a statement supporting One Belt, One Road. While they were wary of China’s global strategy, they had to acknowledge the mutual benefits of active trade.
In June 2014, the United Kingdom first declared its support for One Belt, One Road when Premier Li Leqiang visited London. While China’s 24 trillion won economic cooperation project was a factor, the conclusion was based on an analysis of national interests. Germany and Italy made the same moves when Li visited in October. And they all recently announced their intention to join AIIB.
How about Korea? In the past two years, more than 100 politicians visited Beijing. But none mentioned One Belt, One Road. So when the United States opposed Korea’s entry, the Korean government was not likely to consider joining. With about 10 days to the deadline for AIIB founding membership, the Korean government is making a belated fuss over national interest. If they paid a little attention to the substance of the AIIB, we could have been saved from being an object of ridicule.
*The author is a Beijing correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 21, Page 26
by CHOI HYUNG-KYU