Russia, Australia and Holland yesterday said they would apply to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, while Beijing also appeared to open the door to Taiwanese membership, days before Tuesday's deadline for founding members.
Beijing opens door to Taiwanese involvement in US$100-billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, as string of countries say they will apply
The news followed an announcement by the finance ministry that Britain and Switzerland had been formally accepted as founding members of the new fund, which has a capital target of US$100 billion.
Some 30 countries had now been formally accepted as founding members with even more under consideration and applications still coming in, the finance ministry said.
Moscow had been conspicuously quiet over whether it would join up, even after eight European countries, led by Britain, made clear their intentions to join, prompting speculation over the indecision of Beijing's global strategic partner. Whether Taiwan, which Beijing perceives as a renegade province, could join and in what capacity, has also been the subject of speculation.
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov expressed Moscow's intent to join the AIIB when he addressed the China-sponsored Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan, reported the Russian TV network RT.
The announcement leaves South Africa as the only country from the Brics developing economies yet to express an interest in joining the bank.
Brazil, one of China's top trading partners, declared an interest in joining on Friday; India was accepted as a founding member months ago.
Nations will still be able to join the AIIB following the deadline, but only as common members, the ministry said.
In a meeting with mainland President Xi Jinping before the opening of the Boao conference, Taiwan's former vice president Vincent Siew told Xi the island hoped to join the bank.
A press release by the Taipei-based Cross-Strait Common Market Foundation, of which Siew is the honorary chairman, said the meeting lasted for about half an hour, but did not mention Xi's response.
Zhang Zhijun , director of the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, was quoted by Taipei's Central News Agency as saying that Beijing was willing to listen to Taiwan's views on whether it could join the bank and in what capacity.
"We are delighted to hear any opinions and suggestions from Taiwan about this, but so far we have yet to officially receive any application from Taiwan," he was quoted as saying.
Zhang, who was in the meeting with Xi and Siew, said there was a chance for Taiwan to join, but did not elaborate.
As the AIIB requires statehood to join, it has so far been unclear how either Taiwan or Hong Kong could join, even though both have expressed a wish to.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying attended a group meeting with Xi yesterday, but said it was only a courtesy greeting. Hong Kong said earlier it would lobby to join the bank.
Meanwhile, Toshihiro Nikai, a senior member of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, met Xi for a photo session at the Boao forum, amid a slight easing of tensions between the two sides, Kyoto reported.
Nikai was the first Japanese political figure to have met Xi since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held his first talks with Xi in November.
Japan, an ally of the US, has yet to say whether it wants to join the AIIB, which some see as a competitor to the US-dominated World Bank and Asian Development Bank.
Washington had previously asked its European allies not to join the AIIB.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post