编 者 按
Jin Liqun may not be a household name (yet), even though he has one of the most challenging and important jobs in global finance.
Jin, 68, is the inaugural president and chairman of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The AIIB, a Beijing-based multilateral development bank that opened for business in January 2016, is an embodiment of China’s aspirations to play a major role in the international financial system.
Like many during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, Jin spent part of his youth in rural China. A devoted student of English literature, he had a long and distinguished run in the Chinese Ministry of Finance, reaching the rank of vice minister. He’s also done stints at the World Bank and the ADB.
BLOOMBERG MARKETS: When you’re making the rounds at global finance meetings, what misconceptions about the AIIB drive you crazy?
JIN LIQUN: “Why do we need the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank?” Sometimes the question can even be more blunt: “What is China up to? The World Bank and Asian Development Bank have been serving this region well over the last seven decades. Why would China set up a new institution? Isn’t this a waste of resources? Wouldn’t it be more cost-effective to put money into existing institutions? Does China have an ax to grind? Is China hoping the AIIB will help it achieve geopolitical objectives?”
I’ve had to deal with all of those questions. And the difficult part is that I’m a Chinese in the first instance. I don’t think it’s possible for me to tell the whole world I’m really neutral. I cannot say that.
On the other hand, if I just represent China’s ideas, without doing my part to incorporate the ideas, comments, concerns, observations of all the people who are supposed to be part of this work, I don’t think it will be successful.
BM: So tell us about the bank’s first principles and vision.
JL: When China launched its opening-up and reform programs in 1978, there was absolutely nothing which could be described as modern infrastructure facilities in this country. No expressway, no electrified railway, no modern seaports or airports, no supercritical power plants, no high-voltage transmission lines or efficient distribution systems. No nothing.
Under such circumstances, the modernization of China was nothing but a wild fantasy. Then China started to invest massively in infrastructure with financial resources raised from the World Bank—and later on, the ADB—as well as from its domestic savings. Dramatic changes were beginning to take place from the mid-1990s.
It’s interesting to note that when China embarked on a borrowing program, some people thought it was crazy to put foreign money on top of dirt. Can a road give you your money back? Never heard of it! Years later, people came to understand the huge difference between borrowing to consume and borrowing to invest.
China can now stand alongside Japan and Korea to offer tangible experience in growth through broad-based economic and social development based on infrastructure investment.
In 2013, President Xi Jinping announced the Chinese government’s decision to create an MDB [multilateral development bank] to promote infrastructure investment. The purpose of this initiative was straightforward: Bottlenecks in infrastructure investment have seriously hamstrung many developing countries in their growth efforts.
The idea of making a new type of MDB inspired by China’s experience quickly began receiving positive responses—first from ASEAN countries [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] and then from South Asian countries, followed by Central and Middle Eastern countries.
金立群: 成立一家新机构，最有力的论点可能就是它具有新特点。它无意克隆或复制现有机构。开发银行的概念不是抽象艺术——像Jasper Johns的画作那样——越让人难以捉摸就越迷人。世界上应该有点与现有机构不同的东西了，但要有一些新特点，这些特点是以现有机构的学习和经验为基础的。
BM: What sets the AIIB apart from the World Bank or Asian Development Bank?
JL: The strongest possible argument for setting up a new institution is its new features. It’s not intended to be a clone or a copy of existing institutions. The concept of a development bank is not abstract expressionist art, such as Jasper Johns’s paintings—the less comprehensible, the more charming. The world should have something different compared to the existing institutions, but with special features grounded in the learning and experience of those institutions.
BM: And what are those special features?
JL: The AIIB will resist being tied down by bureaucracy. We will not create fancy, flamboyant, and mostly redundant titles and positions. And we will fight against staff working in silos or bogged down in interdepartmental squabbling.
We have put in place operating policies and procedures to enhance efficiency, to promote cost-effectiveness, and to achieve measurable results that respond to our clients’ needs. We will continue to recruit professionals of the highest possible caliber. No position will be created without full justification.
BM: How do you make the AIIB corruption-proof?
JL: I want the AIIB to be squeaky clean. There will be zero tolerance for corruption. We take care of two important aspects, namely procurement through international competitive bidding on our projects and our own internal corporate procurement.
For the former, we will work in close collaboration with our clients to monitor the process of bidding and to make sure that all the companies tendering their bids will be treated fairly and equitably. Any companies or individuals who violate the rules and engage in bribery will be blacklisted. We are voluntarily debarring those organizations already debarred by the other MDBs.
For the latter, any corporate procurement will go through the procurement committee and be subject to close scrutiny to prevent irregularities or misappropriation of the AIIB’s funds.
I have empowered the chief internal auditor to check the expenditures of the bank to make sure that nothing irregular happens. No resistance or obstruction will be tolerated. Minor problems must be nipped in the bud so that they will not fester. We must guard against any callous disregard for cost-effectiveness or intentional misuse of financial resources. A Chinese sage said thousands of years ago, “Felonies thrive where misdemeanors are tolerated.”
BM: Making the best possible loan decisions, free of political bias, is always a challenge at multilateral development banks. How does the AIIB avoid that trap?
JL: Sustained success comes from a decision-making process which must be democratic, rational, and free of impulsive and emotional reactions to external factors. Such a process is not possible if challenging views are frowned upon or hushed, candid and frank exchanges of ideas not allowed, or suggestions from the staff ignored.
At the AIIB, no decisions will ever be made and then handed down without thorough deliberation and consensus-reaching at the executive committee meeting. Staff can speak up and challenge their supervisors. This practice applies all the way to the top.
I place great importance on democratic decision-making. I have followed a number of interesting cases of the rise and fall of great business empires. Without exception, an empire was built up by an individual with extraordinary vision. But an individual’s wisdom is limited, and even pioneers and trailblazers may not be able to keep abreast of everything at all times.
Disasters loom large when the empire builder refuses to listen. Empire builders only see this when, at the denouement, the empire collapses in their hands.
They say people never learn from history. I am one who loves to read history and will learn from history.
BM: How has China’s development path shaped your thinking about the AIIB’s operations and goals?
JL: I would say that, based on the development experience of China over the last few decades, plus my personal experience, we believed it was important to have a new multinational development bank focused on infrastructure development.
First of all, China itself has benefited from the World Bank and bilateral support from many governments. We came to understand the importance of multilateralism.
Secondly, as I said, infrastructure is key to fast economic growth. Finally, we wanted to create a bank with modern technology expertise, managerial expertise, and very good governance.
Each and every one is important, but they only work when they work together in unison.
BM: You’ve been very careful to create some space between the AIIB and China’s huge international infrastructure program, the “One Belt, One Road” initiative. Why?
JL: “One Belt, One Road,” proposed by the Chinese government, is a kind of platform, inviting all the participating countries to work together. President Xi has proposed the program guided by the principles of broad consultation, joint construction, and shared benefit.
We are talking about 60 to 70 countries. The broad goal is to improve regional connectivity in Asia, eventually even global connectivity, thereby benefiting the people who have been left behind.
This isn’t just about China. There’s a serious misconception that the program is about benefiting Chinese companies and labor. Some of these projects may actually not have Chinese participation at all. China’s idea is to promote international cooperation.
BM: And how does the AIIB fit into all of this?
JL: “One Belt, One Road” and the AIIB are certainly initiatives proposed by the Chinese government. But they have their respective functions and roles. One is a broad China-led initiative for all the countries to work together. The other is this multilateral development institution that operates by its own standard of practice.
If countries involved in the “One Belt, One Road” programs would like to work with us [at the AIIB], we will be very happy to consider them. But we need to look at the financial sustainability of the projects. We need to look at environmental protection and the sentiment of the local people.
We have our own standards to process. I believe we will be actively promoting those programs, given our capacity and being responsive to the needs of countries. But we cannot cover everything.
BM: We understand the AIIB is considering launching a dollar-denominated bond offering in the international markets this year. How significant is this for the bank?
JL: We’ve been granted top-level ratings from the three major rating agencies. This is due to the strong support of all the major shareholders, including China and some European countries.
The bank’s management operates independent of any government. We make decisions guided by our own standards and our board. So internal governance, risk control, rigorous financial management, high-quality staff are key. And our team, from the very top to staff out in the field, looks at every investment with the integrity of the bank in mind.
All of this should give assurance to the rating companies that this bank deserves the highest rating. With this rating, the bank certainly can go to the market when the time is appropriate.
未完待续。To be continued.
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