Beijing (AsiaNews) - China is planning to set up a US$ 50 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which could put out of business the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank (WB). Such a "Super Bank" could become Beijing's ace in its power game for market and diplomatic supremacy.
Chinese premier Li Keqiang told last month's Boao Forum for Asia that consultations with potential global partners were "intensifying" and that he hoped the bank could be launched "at an early date".
Developing countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar could be such partners. Until recently they had to rely on the Asian Development Bank for loans and investments.
Headquartered in Manila, the latter is a transnational lending institution traditionally led by a Japanese official, much like the World Bank tends to be run by an American and the International Monetary Fund by a European.
Beijing wants to break the status quo by changing the rules of the game. In practice, this would mean offering loans to Asian governments at zero interest without strings attached or demands for political reform.
In exchange, China would ask for is friendship and support on several international (United Nations, ASEAN, the Criminal Court in The Hague, maritime and territorial claims in South and East China Seas and border disputes with India) and internal matters (Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan).
From a global perspective, a Super Bank would marginalise the United States in Asia. By undermining the Asian Development Bank, it would also weaken the "Washington Consensus", which underpins US hegemony in Asia and the world.
Experts and analysts are however very sceptical. With US$ 4 trillion of currency reserves, China can buy lots of friends, but China's largess could undermine recipients, said William Pesek in Bloomberg, in an analysis of China's flawed decade-long outward expansion.
Even Prime Minister Li Keqiang, who just concluded a week-long tour in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Angola and Kenya, is aware that China's neo-colonial approach has created many problems
During his visit, the Chinese leader made stops in Nigeria, Angola and Kenya. In his talks with African leaders, Li admitted there were still "growing pains" in Sino-African ties that would be solved shortly.
Many Chinese public and private companies have been exploiting Africa's vast mineral and energy resources, bringing their own workers has deprived Africans of jobs.
In Angola for example, they have brought in about 300,000 Chinese workers, stirring local sometimes violent resentment.
According to some sources, Chinese interests already control 40 per cent of African resources - oil, gas, fossils, gemstones and rare earths.
Still, trade volume with Africa should double to US$ 400 billion by 2020, Prime Minister Li said. Chinese direct investment is also expected to quadruple to US$ 100 billion within that time,
Meanwhile, as part of China's help for local development, Li announced a US$ 10 million grant for African wildlife-protection projects, and US$ 8 million in humanitarian aid to war-torn South Sudan.