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China-Led Bank Launches

Hiroki Yajima

A China-led development bank launched full-fledged operations on Monday. Officials at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank have spent the last few days ironing out personnel and other issues.

They say they will promote economic development and hope to issue their first loans by the end of the year. But some countries that haven't signed up remain cautious about the new institution.

The bank opened to much fanfare Saturday. Representatives from the 57 founding member nations came to Beijing to see China's president unveil the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, or AIIB.

Chinese president Xi Jinping expressed optimism over the launch of the bank. He says the multilateral financial institution will cooperate with its global counterparts and says the AIIB will strengthen the world economy's governing system and make it more fair and efficient.

"The official establishment and opening of the AIIB will effectively boost investment channels in Asia, especially capitals from private sectors in infrastructure projects," Xi said. "AIIB will promote regional inter-connection and inter-communication and will improve economic integration."

But the bank, and China's veto power over decisions, has raised concerns including over lending standards and the stability of China's currency.

Japan and the United States have not joined the organization, saying the bank lacks transparency. Japanese officials are questioning whether the bank's board will be able to make fair decisions and if it will ensure environmental protection in its projects.

"Infrastructure investment is the key for broad-based economic and social development, is the key for poverty reduction," said AIIB president Jin Liqun.

Jin Liqun was elected as the bank's first president. The former Chinese deputy finance minister has also worked at the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

He told state run media that all suspicions and doubts will be dispelled and that China will show it is responsible and trustworthy.

The international community will be carefully watching to see whether the bank can live up to international standards. But that's unlikely to prevent another motivation behind China's involvement -- increasing its influence in the world economy.

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