Chinese should learn to lead international institutions

When the world need more involvement by the Chinese in the governance of the global economy, some of the recent incidents indicate that China born professionals heading international institutions are not able to raise above their patriotic thinking.

Jin Yong Cai, CEO of International Financial Corporation, a World Bank arm has resigned from the post after a year of controversy. The immediate reason for Mr Cai’s exit is attributed to the West led major share holder’s displeasure at the high level of financing by the IFC to China oriented projects.

In November, IFC decided to extent $300 mn loans to Postal Savings Bank of China (PSBC) that was in a mission to expand banking operations in rural China.

PSBC has obtained $7bn loan from ten international investors including IFC and several other private lenders. PSBC has the largest network among Chinese commercial banks, with 40,000 branches including in villages. The bank that was established in 2007, is aiming to spread further, to promote financial inclusion in the so far unbanked areas.

Western shareholders of the IFC abstained from voting on the decision, holding that PSBC investment doesn’t suit to the domain functions of the IFC. The PSBC have enough funds from other investors and the investment doesn’t have development character.

West led members of the World Bank’s 25 member board largely abstained from voting related to the PSBC loan and this came as an effective no confidence motion against Mr Cai.   Representatives of the US, Japan and major European shareholders including the UK, Germany and France all abstained from voting.

Many observers from the Western side voiced that Mr Cai is forcing the international lender to finance more Chinese projects. Insiders say that the he has shown more interest in financing projects that involves Chinese firms outside China.

Earlier in 2014, IFC was accused of violating arms length principle while arranging $1bn Chinese loan to IDA (affiliate of the World Bank that gives loans to poor countries) for purchasing IFC’s bonds. The IFC is giving loans mainly to private companies and public entities that engage in development oriented projects.

On his side, Mr Cai complaints that western countries are too sensitive about projects related to China.

The summary of Mr Cai’s premature exit from IFC indicate that Chinese executives often are failing to subdue their patriotic approach for not triggering the usual reservations that Western countries have about them.

At a time when Chinese economic weight is to be inducted in the governance of international institutions, it is their responsibility to be sensitive to the concerns of the West. That will be better for the collective interest of the developing countries as well.

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