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New Brics lenders redraw multilateral map

Top emerging market officials reveal the ambitions of the new Sino-led development institutions. But emerging markets ignore the opportunity costs of state-led project financing at their peril.


From trade to commodities, China has woven much of the economic fabric of Asia over the past decade. And now in the coming years, Beijing hopes to start an infrastructure revolution that will connect cities in the region and beyond to its ever-expanding empire. From pipelines, power plants, dams, airports to rail networks, China has launched a manifesto for a new Asian order.

This vision links China’s own trade and financial hubs to the likes of Almaty, Bangkok, Dhaka, Kolkata, Karachi, Moscow and Singapore, driven by Beijing’s excess savings, diplomatic leverage and soft power. From the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor, the $40 billion Silk Road fund, to the proposed high-speed cross-continental railway network, China is plotting rapidly to extend its international footprint in the next decade.

Chinese development banks, state lenders and construction firms will prove crucial vehicles for delivering this vision. At first blush, the newly established Shanghai-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Brics bank, the New Development Bank (NDB), could prove key cogs in China’s geopolitical machine, in ways that would deeply politicize their governance, project-selection and financing structures. 

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