The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and China's Environmental Ambitions

The original name of this report is: "The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and China’s environmental ambitions: Frontrunner or greenwashing?" This report by CEAS's member, Laura Nijssen, is published early 2021, on Sinosphere, a student-run research journal affiliated with the 21st Century China Center at the UC San Diego, School of Global Policy and Strategy. This article on the onlineCEAS is a summary of this report.


This paper takes a look at China’s environmental ambitions through an analysis of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, founded by China in 2015. The AIIB is both included in and a possible challenge to a broader Chinese ‘eco-civilization’ concept, linked to China’s pursuit of international status and soft power. Principal-agent theory is used to explain the relationship between China and the AIIB, and the concept of greenwashing is used to analyze first the Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) of the AIIB compared to other MDBs, and second the projects approved so far in the two largest categories of Energy and Transport.


This paper concludes that the AIIB cannot be considered ‘greenwashed’ by China because it meets international standards of environmental ambition. At the same time the AIIB is unlikely to make a significant contribution to Chinese goals to be an environmental frontrunner, as its ESF is too vague and the projects approved so far are limited in their environmental ambition. Some developments are identified that may contribute to Chinese international status in the future, namely an increase in clean energy funding and a co-financing trend with environmentally ambitious partners; however, these trends should be further researched.



*The full article is available at the

Annual Journal of Sinosphere 2021, Volume 1 (page 65-81).




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International Finance Magazine

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