This year’s annual gathering of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund will be unlike any other in the two institutions’ history. As representatives of hundreds of countries converge in Washington this week, the event will prove historic and remarkable—not for what goes on in the official meetings, but for the intrigue, anguish and anticipation that will unfold on the sidelines.
As the official speeches and parties take place, top officials in the hallways and private meeting rooms will come under pressure from both the United States and China. The reason: The fledgling but already formidable Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which is preparing for what by all indications will be a successful launch despite strenuous American objections.
The AIIB, the brainchild of Chinese President Xi Jinping, has become a source of friction not only between the U.S. and China, but also between Washington and its top allies. The U.S. has sought to slow the project’s ambitious reach, but America’s partners, one by one, have decided to defy Washington’s wishes and jump on the potentially lucrative Chinese bandwagon.