A key debate amongst international relations theorists is how China’s rise will affect the liberal international order (LIO). The launching of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) by Beijing, unsurprisingly, has generated much interest. The aim of this paper is to shed light on the claim that the AIIB constitutes a «counter-hegemonic» initiative (or «external innovation» in liberal terminology). After showing the complexity of Chinese institutional statecraft, the study reviews mainstream theoretical accounts of the AIIB. Both neorealism and neoliberalism, we hold, have contributed to a better understanding of the institution, but ontological and epistemological deficiencies prevent them from satisfactorily explaining the complex social processes underway. By contrast, we set out a Neo neo-Gramscian perspective, which understands the AIIB as an institutional manifestation of the on-going interaction between the social forces emergent out of China’s own statesociety complex on one hand, and their global counterparts, on the other. For the short term, we conclude, the AIIB is likely to reinforce the LIO. Over the medium to long term, however, this internationalisation of the state process, understood in connection with the Belt and Road Initiative, may pose a serious challenge to the LIO and, as a result, to US hegemony itself.
1. INTRODUCTION.—2. CHINA’S INSTITUTIONAL STATECRAFT.—3. THE AIIB «CHALLENGE»: A MAINSTREAM EXPLANATION.—4. INSTITUTION-BUILDING: A NEO NEO-GRAMSCIAN PERSPECTIVE.—5. UNDERSTANDING CHINA’S AIIB BALANCING ACT.—6. CONCLUSION.
Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank; Belt and Road Initiative; China; hegemonic project; hegemony; institutional statecraft; internationalisation of the state; liberal international order; state-society complex;
REDI Vol. 72 2 2020
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