On the heels of a diplomatic spat between Hanoi and Washington regarding Russia’s use of a former US air base in Vietnam to refuel nuclear-capable bombers on the way to conducting “provocative” runs in the Pacific, we get yet another, larger, sign that it may indeed be the US that’s isolated and not (as Western media would have you believe) the Kremlin. The UK (Washington’s “special” friend) has announced it’s joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is essentially China’s answer to the Asian Development Bank over which Beijing feels the US has undue influence.
The bank, which will fund infrastructure projects across the region and may indeed be part and parcel of China’s implicit attempt to establish a Sino-Monroe Doctrine, represents “an unrivaled opportunity for the UK and Asia to invest and grow together,” according to Britain’s George Osborne. Unsurprisingly, the US doesn’t see it that way and although Washington was generously willing to concede that this was the UK’s decision to make for itself, US officials are clearly perturbed that Britain didn’t ask for permission:
A spokesman for the National Security Council says the US will allow the UK to make its own decisions...
“This is the U.K.’s sovereign decision.”
...but the next time David Cameron thinks about appeasing a country that is a possible threat to US hegemony, he really needs to ask first...
“[The decision was made with] virtually no consultation with the US.”
“We are wary about a trend toward constant accommodation of China, which is not the best way to engage a rising power.” — From FT, quoting a senior US Official
Washington was also quick to make clear just what the US’s “expectations” are going forward now that London has made a misguided decision to support an effort to improve infrastructure in Asia:
“We hope and expect that the U.K. will use its voice to push for the adoption of high standards.”
Because this really is all about standards, as the US made clear last year when Washington may or may not have operated behind the scenes to discourage Australia, South Korea, and Japan from joining the bank.
From NY Times:
Washington has expressed reservations about the new institution, on the grounds that it would not meet environmental standards, procurement requirements and other safeguards adopted by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank for their lending projects.
But fundamentally, Washington views the Chinese venture as a deliberate challenge to those postwar institutions, which are led by the United States and, to a lesser extent, Japan, and the Obama administration has put pressure on allies not to participate…
South Korea and Australia, both of which count China as their largest trading partner, have seriously considered membership but have held back, largely because of forceful warnings from Washington, including a specific appeal to Australia by President Obama.
But as one official from the rival Asian Development Bank told The Times: “This horse is out of the barn.”
And that means in short order Australia and South Korea will likely be on board and at that point, the stigma the US has created around membership will have completely disappeared (if it hasn’t already), opening the door for other US “allies” to join despite the bank’s alleged “low” standards.
So again we ask: “Who’s really isolated?”