New Development Banks as Horizontal International Bypasses: Towards a Parallel Order?


AJIL Unbound, Volume 111
January 2017 , pp. 236-240
Oliver Stuenkel, Associate Professor of International Relations, Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV).
COPYRIGHT: © 2017 by The American Society of International Law and Oliver Stuenkel
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Published online: 05 September 2017 

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Over the past years, the Chinese government (along with other rising powers) has engaged in unprecedented international institution-building, leading to the establishment of, among others, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the BRICS-led New Development Bank (NDB). Providing services similar to existing institutions such as the World Bank, these new institutions profoundly alter the landscape of global governance. The existing literature has mostly debated whether such activism shows that China and others are embracing or confronting today's Western-led order. This discussion fails to capture a more complex reality, and the concept of international institutional bypasses (IIB) may help us gain a better understanding of China's complex institutional entrepreneurship. As will be explained, decisions by China and other countries to simultaneously support reform processes in existing institutions and also create new ones suggests that they seek alternative ways to overcome perceived dysfunctions in the dominant institutions by creating IIBs. Considering the initiatives in these terms allows for a more nuanced picture that transcends the simplistic dichotomy of integration versus rupture.